Everything You Need to Know about Texas Shoplifting Laws

November 15, 2017 | By Fulgham Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys
Everything You Need to Know about Texas Shoplifting Laws

If you have been charged with shoplifting in Texas, you may wonder what penalties you may face if convicted. Shoplifting may sound like a minor criminal offense but if your shoplifting case is not handled properly, it could affect your future as negatively as a felony conviction. Here is a guide to everything you need to know about shoplifting charges in Texas, and what criminal defenses may be used to help you.

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What the Texas Statutes Say about Shoplifting

Texas Penal Code §31.03 addresses theft, which comes in several different forms. Shoplifting is a type of theft crime. Moreover, it is the most common offense brought to court in the Fort Worth area and in most areas of Texas.

Theft or shoplifting is defined as unlawfully taking someone else’s property without their consent and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. In a shoplifting case, this would apply to unlawfully taking a retail store’s property without the store’s consent.

The taking of property is unlawful when the one who takes it has an intention to permanently deprive the rightful owner (the store) of their belongings. A shoplifting case hinges on intent, and the prosecution must prove that the defendant had intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property for a conviction to occur.

The penalties associated with shoplifting convictions are directly related to the value of the property in question. You may face a misdemeanor or felony shoplifting charge, along with fines, incarceration, or both.

Here are guidelines to the penalties associated with shoplifting charges:

  • Shoplifting Property with a value less than $100: Class C misdemeanor, maximum fine of $500. No jail time is required for this offense but it is critical you do NOT pay the fine. Paying the fine is the equivalent of being convicted and could limit your future.
  • Shoplifting Property with a value less than $100 plus prior theft conviction: Class B misdemeanor, maximum fine of $2,000 and/or maximum 180 days in county jail.
  • Shoplifting Property with a value between $100 and $750: Class B misdemeanor, maximum fine of $2,000 and/or maximum 180 days in jail
  • Shoplifting Property with a value between $750 and $2,500: Class A misdemeanor, maximum fine of $4,000 and/or maximum one year in jail
  • Shoplifting Property with a value between $2,500 and $30,000, or firearm theft: State jail felony, maximum fine of $10,000 and at least 180 days in jail, not to exceed two years in a state jail facility
  • Shoplifting Property with a value between $30,000 and $150,000: Third degree felony, maximum fine of $10,000 and at least two years in prison, not to exceed 10 years in prison
  • Shoplifting Property with a value between $150,000 and $300,000: Second degree felony, maximum fine of $10,000 and at least two years in prison, not to exceed 20 years in prison
  • Shoplifting Property with a value over $300,000: First degree felony, maximum fine of $10,000 and between 5 and 99 years in prison

Defenses You Can Use to Fight Texas Shoplifting Charges

If you or a loved one has been charged with a shoplifting charge in Fort Worth, Texas or in the surrounding cities of North Texas, you need to make certain that you are not convicted and have a customized defense plan to help minimize your theft arrest on your future. Some of these criminal defenses may apply in your unique case. Some may not. You will need to consult with an experienced Fort Worth criminal attorney to know which strategy is most likely to lead to a positive outcome in your situation.

Mistake or Accident.

The State of Texas must prove that you acted intentionally and that your intention was to commit the crime of shoplifting. Many times, law enforcement will assume that you are a criminal and will not give you the benefit of the doubt that it may have been a mistake or accident. If the behavior that the police have characterized was a mistake or accident, your experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney must fight to clear your good name.

Let’s say you were walking out of a store after paying and the alarm went off as you crossed the threshold. Perhaps the clerk put an item in your bags without scanning it first, and you did not realize that you had not paid for it. In this case, the clerk would have made an accident that frees you from the charges. It is critical to establish that you paid for everything else in your bag and the behavior being criticized as criminal was in fact accidental.

What about a self-checkout line? What if you go through the line and pay for everything else in your cart but forget the bag of dog food located at the bottom of the cart? Did you have the criminal intent? Why would you pay for everything else but steal the dog food? Of course not! This was clearly an accident or mistake. The surrounding circumstances of your criminal case may be able to clearly show that you did not intend to commit the crime of shoplifting.

No Intent To Permanently Deprive The Owner.

Did you intend to permanently deprive the owner of the property? How can the State of Texas prove this? Once again, we turn to the specific facts alleged in the shoplifting case to see if the facts make sense in regards to the elements of the crime.

For example, you thought an item was a free sample, but it was actually for sale. You took the item and consumed the item or carried it with you out of the store. Perhaps the signage or the display made it appear to a reasonable person that the item would have been a sample or was free. If so, your aggressive shoplifting lawyer must negotiate a dismissal of your shoplifting charges based upon this reasonable doubt.

What if you had items with you in the store but walked to an adjacent area past a point of sale but had not left the store entirely? What if you were looking at display items outside of the store and loss prevention officers arrested you for theft? It may be that you had no intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property. These examples illustrate the fact that the State of Texas must prove criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt and failure to do so will result in your case being dismissed or being found not guilty.

You paid for the item in question.

If you paid for the item in question, you did not commit the crime of shoplifting. The scanning equipment may have not been working properly, and you would not be responsible in this situation.

The item in question belongs to you.

If you are the rightful owner of the property in question, you cannot logically or legally have committed the crime of shoplifting. Perhaps you were accused of stealing a watch, ring, or other item that belonged to you in the first place. What if you brought a return item and carried it with you through the store and then paid for new items and walked out of the store?

Sometimes, loss prevention officers can be confused about what items were paid for and not paid for and lump all the items together and claim you committed shoplifting. We have represented clients in this situation and after showing a receipt to prove our client had already paid for the items in question, the shoplifting case could be dismissed.

Someone else committed the theft.

Identity of the individual that committed the crime of shoplifting must be proven by the prosecutor on your shoplifting case. Maybe you were somehow mistaken for the real offender. Perhaps your physical appearance was similar to the person who got away from the property after a shoplifting. What if you were with someone else and they committed the theft? We find this situation happen frequently when one person is with another person who stole an item and the police arrest everyone.

Is merely being present at the scene of theft enough to prove shoplifting? NO! Mere presence at the scene of the crime does not prove that you were a party to the shoplifting. The State of Texas must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you assisted or furthered the crime of shoplifting in some way to be convicted as a party to the theft.

You abandoned the item.

Abandoning the theft of an item prior to completing the act may be a criminal defense to the crime of shoplifting. If you considered taking an item, but then changed your mind and left it on a shelf or display before getting caught, you may be able to use this defense.

What if you took items and walked around with them at the store but decided to drop them off before leaving but you were arrested? Abandoning the item is a legitimate criminal defense because it shows you had no intent to permanently deprive the store of their property.

You Must Never Be Convicted Of A Shoplifting Charge!

Being charged with the crime of shoplifting in Texas is a serious matter! Regardless of whether it is a Class C Misdemeanor Shoplifting or a Felony Shoplifting allegation, a conviction is not an option your criminal defense attorney should consider if you are a first-time offender. Even a conviction to a misdemeanor shoplifting charge can have life-changing consequences. Theft is a crime of moral turpitude and is treated as negatively as a felony charge by most employers. Being convicted of a shoplifting charge will make current and future employers believe they cannot trust you and will effectively destroy any chance you have to work in an industry involving the managing or exchange of money. Taking any type of plea that limits your ability to have the case and arrest expunged from your criminal record could severely limit your future. Don’t settle for a jail sentence or long probation that cannot come off your criminal record.

Your Best Defense Strategy Is Hiring a Knowledgeable Tarrant County Shoplifting Lawyer

Now that you have learned what the penalties look like for shoplifting, do you think you can manage your case on your own or with an overworked, over-stressed court-appointed lawyer?

You need the help of a seasoned criminal defense attorney who can give your case the attention it deserves. Someone who will protect your reputation and your future.

Texas laws aren’t friendly to those convicted of theft crimes such as shoplifting.

What Result Do You Need To Clear Your Shoplifting Charge From Your Criminal Record?

In order to ensure that your shoplifting charge is eligible to be cleared from your criminal record, you must resolve your case in some manner that allows it to be dismissed. There are several ways your case can be dismissed that will make you eligible for an expunction:

  1. Dismissal of Shoplifting charges for lack of evidence
  2. No Bill of a Felony Shoplifting charge
  3. Conditional Dismissal
  4. Class C Misdemeanor Shoplifting Deferred Disposition
  5. Not Guilty Verdict at a Trial

At the Fulgham Law Firm, you will work with a team of Former Prosecutors with over 80 years of criminal law experience and over 500 criminal jury trials. We want to match you with our legal team that will provide you a customized defense strategy to best equip you to put this shoplifting charge behind you and clear your arrest and criminal record.

Contact us today for a free consultation to give yourself the best chance at a positive outcome.

About the Author: 

Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.

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