Texas Shoplifting and Theft Laws
In Texas, there are different statutes that cover different kinds of crimes relating to stealing goods. In Texas, there are both misdemeanor and felony theft charges. While each crime relates to a defendant being accused of taking something unlawfully, they do vary in some specific degrees, and, therefore, are handled differently by the court the case ends up in.
For example, if you steal a $5 pair of sunglasses, you will most likely end up in a misdemeanor court; Where if you steal a $2,500 jacket from the Galleria you will end up in felony court.
Theft Laws in Texas
According to Section 31.03 of the Texas Penal Code, a person commits “theft” if they unlawfully take property that doesn’t belong to them, and if they have no intention to give the property back to the rightful owner. Knowingly receiving or taking stolen property from someone else knowing it was stolen is another form of theft. Here, the value of the property in question isn’t necessarily important as stealing anything in Texas is considered theft of property regardless of how much it’s worth or how much of something is stolen. However, the punishment and severity of the charges against an accused thief are dependent on the value of the property alleged to have been stolen (As seen in the example above).
Misdemeanor Theft Charges in Texas
Under Section 31.02 of the Texas Penal Code, shoplifting is lumped in with other crimes under the same definition as “theft”— the unlawful appropriation of property without the intent of returning it to the rightful owner.
The value of the stolen property doesn’t matter when determining if a crime took place, but it does matter when it comes to the classification of the offense. In this case, there are three different degrees of misdemeanor theft that are based on the value of what was stolen and other circumstances. When you first hire your defense attorney, they can help you understand whether you’re facing a misdemeanor theft charge or a felony.
Proving Shoplifting and Misdemeanor Theft
If you are being tried for any kinds of theft, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you did it. In these cases, they have to prove that you were the person responsible for the theft, that there is adequate proof of you committing the crime: from the moment you approached the property alleged to have been stolen, or attempted to be stolen, to the moment you left the store without paying for the item. They further have the burden to prove that you had no intention to pay for the item and that you did not make an attempt to do so. To do this, they can use theft prevention security footage, outdoor security videos, eyewitness testimonies, photographs, your written or oral confession, or all other types of similar evidence that could be used to proves you committed the crime.
Can you be prosecuted for shoplifting after leaving the store?
When caught shoplifting, you can be approached in the store but, in most instances, an employee, manager, or security officer will wait until you’ve actually left the store with the stolen item. This means that you’re not in the clear once you leave the building. In fact, in this case, prosecuting you would be easier since you actually went through with the theft by leaving the store with the item. This is because even if you picked up an item and concealed it, there’s a chance that you’ll pay for it before leaving. However, walking out of the store is a clear indication that you didn’t have any intention of paying for the item.
Similarly, there are instances where you can be arrested even after leaving the parking lot of the store. This would entail someone affiliated with the store going through video surveillance footage of the store and the parking lot to find your vehicle or any identifying marks (including using facial recognition software) and filing charges against you. Granted, most stores aren’t likely to do this, but it is possible, especially if it was an expensive item. Again, the prosecution would have some evidence that you unlawfully took the item knowingly and intentionally.
Can you be prosecuted if caught with a friend who shoplifted?
Finally, you can be prosecuted even if you weren’t the person who physically stole the item. Here, you can be charged with shoplifting by simply aiding or assisting another person in their crime. For example, if you’re out with a friend who decides to shoplift and you encouraged the crime or helped them in some way (like being a lookout), you can be charged with a theft offense even though you didn’t actually steal anything.
If you’re convicted of any kind of theft, you risk jail time, fines, and most importantly, having a searchable criminal record. Since there are different degrees of theft in Texas, there are actually several different punishments that you could be facing. Theft of any kind can be a felony or a misdemeanor making the punishment severe or minimal depending on the nature of the crime. Here is a general breakdown of the possible punishments for theft based on the degree of the crime.