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.
|Nature of the Crime||Crime Classification||Punishment|
|Item stolen is worth under $100||Class C Misdemeanor||Fines up to $500|
|Item stolen is worth $100 or more but under $750, or is a specific item like a driver’s license or similar identification card||Class B Misdemeanor||Up to 180 days in jail and fines as high as $2,000|
|Item stolen is worth $750 or more but under $2,500||Class A Misdemeanor||Up to 1 year in jail and fines as high as $4,000|
|Item stolen is worth $2,500 or more but under $30,000||State Jail Felony||180 days to 2 years of in state jail and fines as high as $10,000|
|Item stolen is worth $30,000 or more but under $150,000||Third-Degree Felony||2 to 10 years jail and fines as high as $10,000|
|Item stolen is worth $150,000 or more but under $300,000||Second-Degree Felony||2 to 20 years in jail and fines as high as $10,000|
|Item stolen is worth $300,000 or more||First-Degree Felony||5 to 99 years in jail and fines as high as $10,000|
Remember, these punishments are generalities that can differ based on the specifics of your individual case. When you contact the Law Office of Paul Schiffer, we can analyze your case and give you a better idea of the possible punishments you face based on the facts presented.
Prior Convictions on Theft Charge in Texas
In most criminal cases, prior convictions of any kind can lead to a harsher sentence. This is especially true if the accused is a repeat shoplifter. In most cases, a prior theft conviction will elevate your given crime to a higher punishment level despite the value of the item(s) in question. For example, if you believe you face a Class B misdemeanor based exclusively on the value of the item taken but have prior convictions you can be charged with a felony. Here, an experienced defense attorney can help you by trying to plea out to the lesser offense despite your past. This is why having an experienced lawyer for something seemingly small is important.
Further Ramifications of Shoplifting or Theft Convictions
Sadly, your punishment doesn’t always end after your initial sentence is served (or the fines are paid). Once you commit a crime, no matter how small it is, you’ll have a permanent criminal record that will come up on any background check. This can negatively impact the rest of your life. It can stop you from getting a job, restrict you from getting certain licenses or certifications, negatively affect your credit, stop you from getting certain loans, or keep you from renting property. It may even have an impact on custody agreements or your ability to foster or adopt children in the future. In short, a criminal record of any kind can change the rest of your life.
Possible Defenses to Shoplifting
A qualified defense attorney can look at the detailed facts and often come up with a solid defense to help you fight back against theft charges. Perhaps they can prove that you didn’t intend to steal the item in question. For example, you could’ve put something in your pocket with intent to pay for it but got an emergency call that forced you to leave the store abruptly and you forgot that you had the item in your pocket.
Another possibility is that the item actually wasn’t stolen but was paid for. Here, an example can be that you went into the store and exchanged an item that you previously bought or received as a gift. You then walked around the store to browse but didn’t buy anything and attempted to leave with your exchanged item. An employee didn’t know you exchanged the item in question, and you’re accused of shoplifting.
A similar example is if you were accused of stealing something that is actually yours. For example, you are accused of stealing a watch from a store, but it turns out that your watch that you own just so happens to be the same watch for sale in that establishment. Here, the property was never stolen and it’s just an honest misunderstanding. Here, evidence that you had the item prior to the date of the incident is required. A good defense attorney can help you with this matter.
There are also other circumstances that can help you fight a theft charge. Your age may help reduce your sentence. Another issue is if you committed the crime under duress and wouldn’t have done it without the forcible action of a third-party. There is also a possibility that you were set up. Here, entrapment could be a valid defense if the circumstances fit.
Pretrial Diversion Programs
When you sit down with a defense attorney, you may find out that you’re eligible for pretrial diversion programs. These are rehabilitation programs for first-time offenders meant to help you avoid harsher penalties if faced with a conviction. They typically are made up of counseling, restitution to the store harmed, and a form of community service. If you’re able to get into one of these programs and complete it successfully, your charges can be dropped so you won’t have a criminal record.
A good defense team can help you find out about these programs and negotiate a deal with the state to keep your good name intact. The terms of these programs will vary and are determined by the prosecution in negotiations with your defense attorney.
Why You Need a Defense Attorney
As you can see, having an experienced defense attorney like Paul Schiffer on your side can prove to be invaluable even if you’re only looking at a Class C misdemeanor charge. By having a lawyer in your corner, you can stand up to the aggressive tactics of a prosecutor and protect your rights throughout the investigation and trial.
If you or a loved one is being accused of any kind of theft, contact the Law Office of Paul Schiffer by phone, email, through our website, or by stopping by our office in person. We will listen to your case, evaluate it accordingly, and tell you what to expect in terms of the charge, punishments, and possible outcome. We’ll work around the clock to help you fight back against these charges. Don’t hesitate any longer; contact Paul Schiffer today.