Inventory loss is a significant cost for any retailer, especially around the holidays. For this reason, retailers large and small increase store security during the Christmas season, and are likely to prosecute even minor shoplifting offenses.
If you are facing Texas shoplifting charges after this holiday season, it is important to take the matter seriously and be proactive. Even if you are facing seemingly minor charges with relatively small penalties, a criminal record can compromise employment, housing, student loan prospects, and more.
Fortunately, a knowledgeable Texas theft defense attorney can help you to develop a strong defense, maximizing your change of an acquittal. Your attorney can also help you assess whether alternative options such as pretrial diversion programs or plea bargaining may be appropriate.
Texas Shoplifting Laws
Shoplifting is charged as theft in Texas. The level of charges and criminal penalties are dependent upon the value of the item(s) you have been accused of shoplifting.
If convicted, you could face the following charges and penalties:
- Less than $50: Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to $500 in fines.
- $50-$500: Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and up to $2,000 in fines.
- $500-$1500: Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and up to $4,000 in fines.
- $15,000-$20,000: State jail felony punishable by 180 days-one year of incarceration in a state penitentiary and up to $10,000 in fines.
- $20,000-$100,000: Third degree felony punishable by 2-10 years state incarceration and up to $10,000 in fines.
- $100,000-$200,000: Second degree felony punishable by 2-20 years state incarceration and up to $10,000 in fines.
- Over $200,000: First degree felony punishable by 5-99 years state incarceration and up to $10,000 in fines.
Presence of aggravating factors, such as tools used to remove tags, may increase the severity of charges. Theft of certain items, such as firearms, may also increase the severity of charges.
Shoplifting Defenses That Can Work in Texas
Fortunately, a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help you fight back against shoplifting charges. The most common defenses challenge the evidence or intent for shoplifting.
Because retailers and prosecutors have ramped up efforts to apprehend and prosecute shoplifters, shoplifting may sometimes be prosecuted too hastily and in the absence of sufficient evidence.
To successfully convict you of shoplifting, the prosecution must prove that you:
- Were witnessed approaching the item in the store
- Handled the item
- Concealed the item and/or carried it away
- Were continuously watched by staff and/or other witnesses from the time you approached the item until leaving the store without paying for it.
- Did not pay or attempt to pay for the item.
- Were approached after having left the store.
Your attorney may be able to bring these elements under question, leading to acquittal, or to your charges being dropped or reduced.
Lack of Intent
Shoplifting includes two elements of intent, including:
- Intentional concealment or possession of an item offered for sale.
- The intent to permanently deprive the retailer of the item without paying for it.
Depending upon the circumstances of your shoplifting case, your attorney may be able to cast reasonable doubt upon one or both elements of intent, suggesting that you may not have shoplifted intentionally. For example, you may have legitimately forgotten to pay for the item, and tried to return it upon realizing your mistake.
Fort Worth Pretrial Diversion Programs
For first-time offenders, pretrial diversion programs may be a viable option. These programs are aimed at rehabilitating offenders, and helping them to avoid the long-term consequences of a criminal record. If you successfully complete a pretrial diversion program, your charges will be dropped.
Your attorney can help determine whether diversion is appropriate for your case, and if so, negotiate a potential deal with prosecution. If you are permitted to enter into pretrial diversion, the terms and length of the program will be set by the prosecution. The terms vary on a case-by-case basis, but in general you can expect required counseling, community service, and restitution to the retailer.
Plea Bargaining Is Always an Option
In many shoplifting cases, surveillance footage and other evidence may make an acquittal unlikely. In these situations, plea bargaining may allow for the most favorable outcome.
Shoplifting has been strongly linked to mental illness, especially for repeat offenders. Kleptomania, the desire to take things that are not one’s own, is associated with anxiety and depressive disorders. If you have any history of mental illness or have sought treatments such as talk therapy, be sure to inform your attorney, as these factors may be helpful in plea bargaining.
Bottom line? Whatever your situation, if you are facing shoplifting charges, make sure you work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands how to leverage his or her knowledge and skill to ensure the most favorable possible outcome for your case.
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.