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Articles Posted in Shoplifting & Theft


Remember that old Hertz commercial from the ’70s with OJ Simpson running through the airport like he’s heading towards the endzone?

We don’t want to be late  returning our rental car, do we?  We might get charged for an extra day or an extra hour, or criminally charged.

Have you ever read your car rental agreement, or just rushed through initialing all of the boxes?   Believe it or not, initialing those boxes (or not) may create some interesting issues later. And, that’s our real-life case for today.  Try to contain your excitement, because this case contains an important lesson for defending criminal cases.

Sampaio was arrested for the felony of failing to return a hired vehicle.  He didn’t return a car, and he signed “most of” his car rental agreement.  Yes, he conveniently skipped an important box, but more on that later. Continue Reading

dont-steal-e1577394396587-300x80Faith is an island in the setting sun

But proof, yes

Proof is the bottom line for everyone.

Paul Simon, Proof

Can you prove how much pain you’re in? Sure, the doctor can ask you to select one of seven smiley faces, or frowny faces, depending upon your level of pain. But, how can you prove to the doctor that your level of pain is a level 5 frowny face, versus a level 7 frowny face?

How do you prove you love someone, versus just liking them? As Gordon Gano sings, what do I have to do, to prove my love to you?

Problems of proof have plagued criminal cases for decades. Today, we’re going to take a look at four felony grand theft convictions and ask ourselves: did they have enough proof?

In J.A.H. v. State, 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 10027 (Fla. 2d DCA 2019), J.A.H. was convicted of grand theft auto, plus three counts of burglary of a conveyance.

Here’s what happened: three vehicles were broken into, wallets and purses were stolen. That’s where the three burglary of a conveyance convictions came from. Now, I’m not sure why folks (3) would leave their purse or wallet in the car, that seems a bit old school, but it happened in this case. Go figure. As for the grand theft auto, a 2012 Nissan Altima was also stolen. Continue Reading

fun-e1558908913901-300x249If you’ve ever seen an interview with a doctor or scientist, they always prance out their white coats because it makes what they’re saying more believable.  Now, if you add blinking lights in the background, you’ve taken it to the next level.  Experts love technology.

One of the cool things about advanced technology is that, if sufficiently advanced, it is indistinguishable from magic.

For example, who would have thought that a machine could ever read our mind?  Neurologists now claim they can “read your mind” by utilizing various technologies, even off the shelf EEG monitors to read electrical patterns given off by the brain (redundant, slightly).  When these machines get up to speed, they will help stroke victims who have lost their voice to speak once again.

As smart as neurologists think they are, Silicon Valley may have beaten them to the punch.  Google can “read our minds” better than the neurologists and their gizmos.  Google knows what I’m going to type before I type it.  Heck, Amazon knows what I’m going to order before I order it and I’ve heard that they’ll shift inventory of certain items to a closer warehouse in anticipation of my order.  Even scarier yet, some retail stores have hit young ladies with coupons for maternity clothes before they (and their very upset parents) realize they’re pregnant because their purchases fit a purchase pattern of other pregnant folks.

Cops can also predict behavior.  Much like the timing of a maternity coupon before the woman knows she’s pregnant, cops can sense when things are about to go down.  And, that’s how we arrived at our case for today.

At around 3:00 a.m. a Polk County officer was parked at a church when he noticed noise coming from a nearby (closed) Walgreens.    The officer sneaks up on the back door of the Walgreens and calls for backup as he sees two men using a yellow crowbar to pry open the back emergency door of the Walgreens.  These guys must have sensed trouble so they ran away and were quickly picked up by a black Mustang.  The officer calls in a description of the car, and a few moments later the black Mustang was pulled over down the street.  Sanchez v. State 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 6756 (Fla 2d DCA 2019) Continue Reading

fingerprints2-216x300Any time several folks get together to form a group, there’s always a risk bad things will happen.  One of the minor annoyances of people “organizing” is that they’ll end up developing their own corny lingo.  Not only do I dislike this sort of thing, but I’m more guilty of it than most (I’m not offended by my own hypocrisy, of course.  Why not aim for good things, even if you don’t attain them every single time?).

My first violation of the English language involves church stuff.   I belong to a church that is guilty of “Christian speak.”  Trust me, if you haven’t heard Christian speak, its annoying.  At its core, this language is basic virtue signalling.

For example, no one calls themselves a Christian  anymore, Christian-speak now has us referring to ourselves as “disciples”, with everyone busy working on their “ministry”.  Yes, this is virtue signalling at its finest.  That being said, this never stops me from poking fun at celebrity virtue signalers.  My church is minor league versus Hollywood.  Just try getting thru a talk show without either the host or guest explaining their commitment to various “causes”.  Again, virtue signalling.  Heck, even me telling you I belong to a particular church qualifies. Yes, I’m a hypocrite.

SIDE BAR: Jesus didn’t use Christian speak, so I’m not sure why churches have adopted such un-Christ-like attitudes.  For example, Jesus promised the thief hanging on the cross next to him that “Today you will be with me in paradise“.   Did this thief chanting some magical Christian speak that opened the doors to paradise?   Most religions claim you can only get to paradise if you belong to their church, their faith, following their rules.  Nobody gets into paradise but us.  We’re the only club members who know “the Truth”, right?  Hum.  I don’t see any of that in Jesus’ words in Luke 23:43.  Most religions have added text to Jesus’ words here, and would now claim that the thief who was promised paradise today couldn’t–actually–get there without doing some mission work, being baptized, and of course the big one–belonging to the correct religion.  Read Luke chapter 23 and I think you’ll agree that Jesus is pretty generous with his paradise admission policy–no magic words and no special religious memberships required.  I’m just saying.

Anyway, science has its own battles with language, and its own battles with the truth.  This plays out quite frequently in the criminal courts, where we have rules on what is considered “science,” and what isn’t.

One interesting battleground for science in the courtroom involves fingerprints.  Its been a few years since I’ve ranted about the so-called science of matching fingerprints, but suffice it to say that an “expert” cannot go up in front of a jury and claim that one fingerprint “matches” another fingerprint.  I know what you’re thinking, I’ve seen a lot of movies, and admitting fingerprints is never a problem, right?  Wrong.  It’s a problem. Continue Reading

IMG_5029-e1529527687928-300x73Everybody who leaves their hometown has left a few favorite restaurants behind.  I left St. Louis almost three decades ago, but I still miss Imo’s Pizza and Ted Drews Frozen Custard.  Every time I visit my hometown, I’m having Imo’s Pizza and Ted Drews (in that order, and probably White Castle later that night).

Unfortunately, Florida doesn’t have a Ted Drews (there’s only one, and as I said, it’s a 1,000 miles away).   The good news is, I have found a substitute.  I really really like Dairy Queen’s Blizzard.  Blizzards are the next best thing.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Dairy Queen menu, a Blizzard is soft serve ice cream with sweets mixed in.  Depending upon my mood, I may mix in cookie dough and peanut butter cups, or bananas, chocolate, and peanut butter.  It’s just tough to say.

Full disclosure:  I have not been compensated in any way to endorse DQ’s blizzard, Ted Drews, or Imo’s.  If I had any sort of inkling that mentioning products would get me some freebies, I would launch into a rant about my love of Porsche and various all-inclusive resorts.

Anyway, back to Dairy Queen.

What do you think the average net worth is of the folks eating at DQ?

Let’s think about how many customers the average DQ can seat.  Maybe 30 or 40 dessert goers, max?  Dairy Queens are typically small.   Could you, possibly, get a good feel for the net worth of the customers inside without ever stepping foot inside?

I have a friend looking for an apartment, and he won’t even tour an apartment inside if the complex doesn’t pass his “parking lot test.”  In other words, if there are crappy cars parked everywhere–he doesn’t want to live there.  Doesn’t matter what the place looks like on the inside.  Same goes for a DQ parking lot, you may be able to gauge the net worth of the folks inside just by looking at the parking lot, right?

Wrong. It is really hard to establish net worth based upon car alone.  After all, the average income of a BMW owner is the price of the BMW.  So, we’re not going to be able to establish an average net worth based upon the parking lot (does knowing the average income of a BMW owner really tell us anything meaningful? Hold that thought).

The good news is, we can still establish the net worth of Dairy Queen customers at a particular store, on a particular day.  Let’s take a look at a Dairy Queen in Nebraska, on Monday, June 11th, 2018.  Continue Reading

IMG_4918-e1520960263223-225x300You have to look at criminal charges closely.  Drill down deep.  In a criminal case, don’t get thrown off the scent by taking the arrest report as the Gospel Truth.  It’s not.  An arrest report isn’t even admissible in court.  The important document is called “The Information”.  It’s what the prosecutor files after they’ve reviewed the police report and (supposedly) spoken with the witnesses in the case.  The Information contains what the defendant is charged with, regardless of what the police may have arrested the person for.

Now, this all important document–the “Information”–contains lots of words.  Words have meaning.  That being said, it shouldn’t come as any surprise to you that we lawyers like argue over what things mean.

We’re going to take a close look today at credit card crimes.  Let’s briefly review the evolution of a typical fraudulent use of a credit card arrest.

Our journey often begins with surveillance cameras.  Someone takes a stolen credit card, and uses it at a gas pump.  Guess what?  There’s video cameras everywhere you use a credit card.  No need to dig out CSI Miami spy satellite imaging to solve this case.  A credit card swipe has a time code attached to it, and this is matched up to the store’s surveillance video.  So, how long does it take to get a picture of the “suspect”?  Like, five seconds.  Just rewind the tape.  Continue Reading

IMG_3136-300x225I hired a “friend” (yes, air quotes) to do my kitchen cabinets a few years ago.  I overpaid for the entire project because it was helping a friend that needed the money.  Unfortunately, I got screwed toward the end of the job.  I could have sued.  It was so bad, I could have pressed criminal charges.   As my significant other will attest, I still harbor anger over this situation.  Yes, forgiveness would help me out some, but when it comes to getting ripped off by someone you thought was your friend, its easier said than done.

There are entire books written on “How To Forgive”, and these books make forgiveness seem like some sort of science.  Just follow the charts and checklists, and you’ll be healed.  But it’s not a science and I’ve never heard a satisfactory explanation as to what happens inside of me when I forgive.    When people say “I need you to forgive ME”, they’re just looking to gain the outward effects of forgiveness.  Let’s say a wife cheats on her husband–and consequently gets the angry cold shoulder forever–the wife’s hope of forgiveness is just that her husband will bring back the love and warmth he once had for his wife.

I get it.  The world would be a better place if we all forgave each other–but how do you do that?  Most importantly, what happens on the inside?

I don’t know.

I didn’t press charges on the contractor “friend” that did my kitchen.  Our real life example case for today involved a similar situation where charges were pressed over a kitchen deal gone bad.  In Leggett v. State, a homeowner hired a carpenter Carl Leggett to remodel her kitchen.  2018 Fla.App.LEXIS 701 (Fla. 3d DCA 2018).  The homeowner gave Leggett a $2,250 check as a deposit to start the work, and they had an agreement that this work was to be completed within 2 weeks.  So far, so good, right? Continue Reading


Dear Mr. Guidry,

The police won’t really do that on a theft case, will they?  After all, its only theft charge!

Dear Potential Customer,

Yes, the police may end up doing that.  Yes, that would be a waste of tax payer money, but that doesn’t stop them (ever).  And, law enforcement sometimes surprises us with their good old fashioned police work.  Bottom line is: don’t be surprised when the police use technology you only see on TV Shows.  

So, for all you folks wondering just how hard the police are going to work at a petit theft case, or a shoplifting case, or a grand theft case — I have some (potentially) bad news for you.  The advent of “new” technologies enables law enforcement to arrest more shoplifters at Kohl’s, Macys, Wal-Mart and Target than previously thought possible.   What is this crazy “new tech” and why did I put it in air quotes?   Unfortunately, we’re getting more shoplifting arrests due to cheap data storage.  Hard drives, basically.  I know, you’re disappointed because you thought we’d be discussing the laser-guided ear lobe analysis used on the latest iteration of Law & Order.  Sorry.

Store surveillance video isn’t new, but what’s new is the fact that these stores can (and do) rewind months and months of footage to see if a recently caught shoplifter had stolen from the store previously.   Back in the day of VCR’s, stores would write over their tapes within a day or two.   Even five years ago, it was pretty expensive to keep a few days of footage, when you’re saving data from  30+ cameras recording 24/7.   Today, hard drives are cheaper.  They’re bigger.  So, how does this impact a shoplifting case?

Well, it is “possible” that folks who get arrested for shoplifting may have stolen at that store before, and everything that’s happened in the store for the last four or five months in on a hard drive somewhere.  Loss prevention will dig through old video surveillance to find out if the recent arrestee had prior theft shenanigans.  If the old footage reveals the person stealing on previous visits (and they have, that’s why we’re talking about it), there’s going to be a new arrest for an old charge.  Sure, we have ways of beating these petit theft allegations derived from old video footage, but who would have thought that cheap hard drives would lead to more shoplifting cases? Continue Reading

surveillance-cam-225x300Not all cops are created equal.  I have a friend, who’s a cop (hard to believe, I know), and he rarely arrests folks on drug charges.  His form of justice involves escorting the citizen to the nearest toilet and flushing the drugs into our water system. Mercy is out there, believe it or not.  But, if you’re reading this, my guess is that you weren’t so lucky.

Now, not everyone involved in law enforcement has as much mercy as my cop friend.  Loss prevention officers, for example, seem to have the least mercy in their souls of anyone in law enforcement (yes, I’m assuming things like “mercy” and “souls” actually exist, a philosophical debate for another day–but such a debate will be over the strenuous objection of my web people, who complain that I get off the legal track too easily, and thus make their optimization efforts more difficult. Oh well).

Why are loss prevention officers so eager to stick it to shoplifters? . First, Dr. Phil would probably say that loss prevention folks somehow missed their calling as true blue police officers.  In other words, they have a chip on their shoulders.  Now, a chip on your shoulder can be a good thing, look at that quarterback that was drafted #199 in the sixth round back in 2000–he’s doing ok (I’m not a Patriots fan, but you have to love a sixth round pick beating the crap out of the 198 players picked above him.  Anybody who’s had that awkward feeling of being picked next to last in gym class knows what I’m talking about).   For whatever reason, shoplifting patrol people decided that the 12 weeks of police academy was just too academically rigorous, and this tends to make them a bit more harsh than the legitimate police officers they call once they’ve caught a shoplifter.  Case in point: I had a client who was detained for shoplifting, and she really really needed to use the restroom.  She begged loss prevention for a bathroom break, but this only made loss prevention delay further–to the point where she urinated all over herself.  Loss prevention laughed about it, and invited comrades into the back room for an extended gawking session.  Talk about wanting to die!  As a defense attorney, you need only see this sort of thing a few times to start questioning what went wrong. Continue Reading

There are shopliftingplenty of legends surrounding wealthy people.  For example, people assume you’re happy if you have lots of money, and several studies support this.  Also, people assume you’re smart if you have lots of money.  There are plenty of studies to show this is not the case.  If intelligence did lead to wealth, I’m sure India would have less poverty (India contains Earth’s lion share of geniuses, FYI), and Christopher Langan would have Trump style buildings with his name on them (Christopher is the smartest human being on Earth–if you subscribe to IQ testing–but his employment isn’t CEO of the latest craze in Silicon Valley, Christopher keeps it low key with such titles as bouncer and laborer.  “Not that there’s anything wrong with that”, as Seinfeld taught me, but these aren’t the jobs you’d expect of someone with an IQ higher than Hawking or Einstein or Ben Stein).

So, I really like Apple products, and I heard a legend about Steve Jobs that seems plausible.  He didn’t like carrying around music on cassette tapes, or CD’s.  Jobs wanted a more portable music device that could hold more songs than a cassette or CD, but the engineers at Apple kept putting him off because they didn’t have the storage technology to make it happen.  Yes, the engineers are always at odds with the artists.  Later in the legend, Toshiba came out with a tiny hard drive with a decent storage capacity.  With the birth of that tiny hard drive, Steve Jobs’ dream of an iPod became a reality.  The iPod music revolution began with hard drive technology. Then the iPhone, and so forth, and so on.

Hard drive technology is now affecting shoplifting cases.   Here’s how.  A shoplifter gets caught stealing (we call this petit theft).  Back in the day, security cameras were considered new technology, but they were only being viewed live, or the footage was being recorded on a VCR that taped over itself every couple of hours.  The cameras enabled loss prevention officers to view shoppers as possible suspects.  For example, nothing screams “I’m stealing” like someone putting clothes into a bag without ever looking at the size or price.  Once loss prevention spots such odd behavior, they can close in on the suspect.  Now, with the advent of hard drive technology, some stores are able to digitally record many months of video, and when they catch someone stealing, loss prevention simply burns two copies of the footage–one for the police, and one for the local news channel (does the public ever tire of seeing someone caught in the act?).  After that, they start reviewing past footage.