If you have been charged with shoplifting in Texas, you may wonder what penalties you may face if convicted. Here is a guide to everything you need to know about shoplifting charges in Texas, and what defenses may be used to help you.
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.
Theft is defined as unlawfully taking someone else’s property. In a shoplifting case, this would apply to unlawfully taking a retail store’s property.
The taking of property is unlawful when the one who takes it has an intention to 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 deprive 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 charge, along with fines, incarceration, or both.
Here are guidelines to the penalties associated with shoplifting charges:
- Property value less than $50: Class C misdemeanor, maximum fine of $500
- Property value less than $50 plus prior theft conviction: Class B misdemeanor, maximum fine of $2,000 and/or maximum 180 days in jail
- Property value between $50 and $500: Class B misdemeanor, maximum fine of $2,000 and/or maximum 180 days in jail
- Property value between $500 and $1,500: Class A misdemeanor, maximum fine of $4,000 and/or maximum one year in jail
- Property value between $1,500 and $20,000, or firearm theft: State jail felony, maximum fine of $10,000 and at least 180 days in jail, not to exceed two years
- Property value between $20,000 and $100,000: Third degree felony, maximum fine of $10,000 and at least two years in jail, not to exceed 10 years
- Property value between $100,000 and $200,000: Second degree felony, maximum fine of $10,000 and at least two years in jail, not to exceed 20 years
- Property value over $200,000: First degree felony, maximum fine of $10,000 and between 5 and 99 years in jail
Defenses You Can Use to Fight Texas Shoplifting Charges
Some of these 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. 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 didn’t realize you hadn’t paid for it. In this case, the clerk would have made an accident that frees you from the charges.
No intent to deprive. For example, you thought an item was a free sample, but it was actually for sale.
You paid for the item in question. 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. Perhaps you were accused of stealing a watch, ring, or other item that belonged to you in the first place. Charges could be dropped under these circumstances.
Someone else committed the theft. Maybe you were somehow mistaken for the real offender.
You abandoned the item. 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.
Your Best Defense Strategy Is Hiring a Knowledgeable Tarrant County Shoplifting Lawyer
Now that you’ve 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.
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.