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Price Gouging

Sarasota Criminal Defense Lawyers Protecting Your Rights

For anyone who doesn’t live under a rock these days, it can certainly seem like there is a new disaster or calamity every day in our country. The threat of global warming seems to be constantly looming, and natural disasters seem to pop up around every corner. Florida seems to be positioned to suffer from disasters more often than the other states of our union. Jutting out into the Caribbean and dealing with hurricane season each and every year, Floridians are well adjusted to preparing for and weathering the storm of emergency situations.

Floridians, better than almost any other state residents in the United States, are accustomed to the state of emergency that goes along with a serious public safety or public health emergency. As the state that suffers the most from seasonal hurricanes, we are used to having businesses and schools shut down when dangerous weather events hit our shores. Outside of hurricanes, states of emergency can be declared by the government during disease outbreaks like SARS, Zika, or coronavirus. States of emergency could also happen due to actions of foreign states or even terrorists. Not wanting to be left out, the criminal justice system has found a way to infiltrate these states of emergency and to add crimes and increase punishments for those who take advantage of the crisis during a state of emergency. If you have been investigated or charged with a crime during a state of emergency, you should not hesitate to contact a dedicated Sarasota criminal defense lawyer to build your defense.

Price Gouging Elements

When most people think of criminal offenses related to states of emergency, the first thing that comes to mind is looters. The news never fails to plaster the airways with images of people smashing the windows of shuttered stores in order to steal valuables. While actions like that are certainly reprehensible, there are criminal offenses that are committed by the more well-off in our society that often go unreported by the media. Price gouging, or the act of artificially inflating the price of goods is one of those offenses.

Price gouging is prohibited under Florida Statute 501.160. Under the law, once a state of emergency has been declared by the governor, it is illegal for a store owner to rent or sell their product for any essential commodity for an “unconscionable price.” Essential commodities include supplies, food, water, and other services that might be necessary to use or consume during an emergency. It is also a violation of the statute for renters to impose “unconscionable prices” to lease or rent apartments or storage units during the duration of the state of emergency. If you believe a business is committing price gouging during a state of emergency, you should not hesitate to contact a Sarasota criminal lawyer in order to help you report the business and prevent future abuses.

The statute provides a clear definition of the meaning of “unconscionable pricing.” If the amount charged by the seller represents a gross disparity between the normal price and the price during the state of emergency, it is evidence that the price is unconscionable. However, if the increase in price can be connected to the increased costs of obtaining the goods or products sold, then it may not be a violation of the statute to increase the price, even significantly.

Unsurprisingly, the statute also punishes people who try to make a living during the state of emergency. If you do not possess a business license, but are found to be selling products during a state of emergency, even if you are not price gouging, you could be guilty of a misdemeanor offense. If you are investigated for selling products without a license during a state of emergency, don’t hesitate to speak with a skilled Sarasota criminal defense lawyer.

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The lawyers at Hanlon Law are here to build the best defense for your case. Speak to us today at 727-897-5413.

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