It was revealed today that a $5,000 pair of shoes signed by local celebrity Hulk Hogan was stolen from his fancy beach store. It was also revealed that during the theft, possibly in a ruse to divert attention, a statue of Hulk Hogan was shattered to pieces. Oh, these are desperate times in Tampa Bay, Florida, yet of one thing we may be certain, Hulk Hogan was not in the store at the time otherwise the perpetrator would have been bagged and body slammed.

Charlie Chaplin's shoes were so valuable he ate them, how would the Clearwater Police Department value his shoes?
Charlie Chaplin eats his Shoe

If the culprits are captured and charged, what is a fair way to assess the value of the stolen shoes? In Florida a third degree grand theft charge can be levied for any object valued at $300 or more, if less than $300, then the appropriate charge would be a misdemeanor petit theft. What if something of even greater value had been taken from the store such as Hulk Hogan’s bandanna rather than just an old pair of his signed shoes? If the value of the bandanna was more than $20,000 then the theft would be assessed as a grand theft second degree felony. 

The higher the offense charged the more likely it is that jail will be ordered as punishment. And as you can see by how the charges are defined, it is the value of the property stolen that often dictates whether a case is resolved with or without prison time in Tampa Bay Florida.

Yet the fact that Hulk Hogan’s beach store sells his signed shoes for $5,500 doesn’t necessarily mean they have an assessable value of $5,500. In fact, the thief may have thought the value so absurd that the shoes were taken as a joke. Value is more than what a victim says it is. The investigating officers and the Pinellas State Attorney’s Office should look to find a reasonable actual value. One way to do that would be to make inquiry’s from the store as to how many pairs of signed shoes have been sold and if so, for how much. In far too many grand theft cases law enforcement fails to make a complete investigate of value, because their focus is on solving the crime. Also, officers or prosecutors will add further charges such as scheme to defraud in an effort to force defendant’s to plead guilty. 

But what about the possible criminal mischief charge against the thief for that shattered statue of Hulk Hogan? Like theft charges, criminal mischief charges are based on value, but with criminal mischief it is based on the actual value of the object destroyed or the value to repair an object. Making a calculation of actual value is arguable and problematic. Is it merely replacement value or is it something more, say the value of the statue to the Tampa Bay community – priceless or valueless? And if the statue of Hogan is repairable there’d still need to be an assessment of any value lost after the repair compared to the value before the destruction.

Recently in Miami, Florida a museum’s pottery piece on loan from China was intentionally destroyed by an art protestor. Upon the vandal’s arrest the investigating officer was unable to ferret out from the museum staff what the actual value of the pottery actually was, so he simply wrote one million dollars in his police report causing sensational international press reports. The actual value turned out to be assessed for much less, but the potter in China must be smiling.

As you can see in grand theft cases as well as criminal mischief cases value is often an elastic notion. It’s important that a lawyer be prepared to exploit value weaknesses with expert testimony  in order to have a felony or misdemeanor charge reduced or dismissed based on actual value.


Your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney was recently asked if the use of xanax could be a defense to a charge of retail theft and in Tampa Bay, Florida. 

Here’s what I was asked:

Monet's painting shows a frail lady bending yet fighting in the wind not unlike the lady who wrote me about retail theft and grand theft in Tampa Bay, Florida.
Monet, Lady in Wind

After the recent death of my husband I was given a prescription for xanax for my recurring panic attacks. While shopping with my two daughters while on vacation in Florida I suffered a panic attack. I left the store hurriedly without paying for the things in my cart. 

I tried to explain, but I was detained and Clearwater Police were called. I was arrested for Gand Theft. I thought Grand Theft was for very serious crimes involving a lot of stolen property, there were very few items in the cart. 

Can this charge be dismissed as I did not mean to do it and I was on the meds at the time? How could a mere retail theft could be charged as a Grand Theft especially when I had plenty of money to pay for the things my daughters threw into the cart?

The xanax following hard upon her husband’s death would be effective with a Florida jury, but unlikely to sway Tampa Bay prosecutors to drop felony charges. Nor would the recent death of the Defendant’s husband help. In fact when searching for explanations for crime such as theft for previous non-offenders a recurring theme establishes the likelihood that traumatic events in one’s life such as divorce, cancer or death of a loved one may increase rather than decrease the chance of criminal intent. Next they’ll tell us bad luck causes crime.

Years ago while a prosecutor in Tampa Bay, Florida a defense lawyer gave me solid medical evidence that his client in a retail theft case involving sunglasses had advanced alzheimer’s disease. One might think that would be enough to establish there was no criminal intent.
I recommended that the case immediately be nolle prossed, the legal term for dismissing a case in Florida. The elected State Attorney, a sluggish impotent man, saw fit to file the case anyway. It dragged on for years. Perhaps somewhere in the foggy Criminal Justice System the case is still grinding away as in Dicken’s Bleak House
So no, it’s unlikely prosecutors would dismiss the case based on the facts you’ve given unless you could prove the panic attack occurred before you left the store with evidence such as video from the store, testimony from others in the store and the testimony from your daughters. 
Any amount of theft of $300 or more is a Grand Theft in Florida no matter how the theft occurs. If the total amount of the items is under $300.00, then it should be filed as a misdemeanor rather than a felony. A strong defense will establish some elasticity to undercut the store’s interpretation of the actual value of a loss. For example what is the real value of an item the store is selling but that was damaged or previously returned or actually on sale at the time of the theft? 
If they won’t dismiss it or reduce it and if you have no prior record, you might be eligible to have the case dismissed with Pretrial Intervention or be eligible for a withholding of adjudication of guilt or sometime an experimental civil citation program. If none of these options are available, and if you don’t want to plea guilty, then you’d likely need to have a jury trial. 
In Florida a Judge won’t grant a motion to dismiss where the facts of possible guilt are in dispute. In a jury trial your Tampa Bay Criminal Lawyer would present all of the evidence consistent with your innocence including use of xanax and the panic attack itself as a defense.