Facing criminal charges can be an overwhelming experience, especially when you know the allegations against you are false. Unfortunately, trying to explain your way out of the situation is often ineffective and can even make things worse for you in some cases. If law enforcement has arrested you for a shoplifting or theft-related crime, you should contact an experienced and dedicated Pearland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss the situation. Below are some additional steps you can take to ensure your rights remain protected at every stage of the criminal justice process.
Understanding Theft Charges in Texas
When someone unlawfully appropriates property belonging to someone else, they may face theft charges in Texas. According to Title 7, Section 31.03 of the Texas Penal Code, someone commits theft if “he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.” The statute continues to designate unlawful appropriation of property as removing the property without the owner’s effective consent, or “the property is stolen and the actor appropriates the property knowing it was stolen by another.”
Penalties for Theft Convictions in Texas
Essentially, the severity of the penalties for theft crimes depends on the monetary value of the items or services involved in the offense. The more expensive the item, the more serious the crime and corresponding punishment tends to be. For instance, shoplifting an item valued below $100 is considered a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine. In contrast, stealing goods or services worth $300,000 or more can lead to first-degree felony charges, punishable by five to 99 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Repeat offenders can also expect to face enhanced penalties.
Steps to Take if Facing False Accusations of Theft in Texas
If you’ve been wrongfully accused of shoplifting or committing another theft-related offense, it’s natural to feel frustrated and anxious about how this incident will affect your freedom and future. Before you jump to the worst-case scenario, take the following steps to protect yourself and enforce your legal rights.
Try to Remain Calm
False accusations of theft can cause panic and anger, but lashing out at the arresting officer often backfires. In many situations, yelling about your innocence or resisting arrest enables prosecutors to build a stronger case against you. Instead, take some deep breaths and remind yourself that you will have the opportunity to contact an attorney to discuss your legal options. Also, refrain from contacting the person who has accused you of the theft crime, as law enforcement may interpret such an action as an attempt to intimidate the individual or interfere with the investigation.
Know Your Legal Rights
When law enforcement officers place you under arrest, they may read you your Miranda rights. These constitutional rights inform you of your right to contact an attorney and your right to remain silent. It’s essential to recognize that you do not have to speak with the police until your attorney is present. Many law enforcement officers will try to coax you into talking, but they can use any statements you make to further their case against you. Remaining cooperative but exercising your right to remain silent is the best way to navigate the arrest process.
The Less You Say, the Better
It’s best to remain silent until you’ve had the opportunity to discuss the situation with your attorney. While you may feel tempted to explain your way out of the arrest—especially if you know the allegations against you are false—saying nothing is much more advantageous than making statements that could hurt your case. You should refrain from discussing the charges with anyone except your attorney, including police officers, people at the scene, the accuser, or any other parties involved in the case. Instead, trust that your attorney will advise you on the most appropriate and strategic path forward.
Look for Evidence
False accusations can be extremely frustrating to navigate, as you’ll need to show proof that the allegations against you are inaccurate or baseless. With the help of your attorney, you can start locating and compiling evidence to show your innocence. For instance, you can use security camera footage to show that you did not shoplift or locate a witness who can attest to your innocence. Any documentation showing that you were not involved in the incident can increase the likelihood of having the charges against you dropped or dismissed.
Talk to an Experienced Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer
One of the most critical steps you can take when facing criminal charges in Texas is to enlist the guidance of a trusted criminal defense attorney. Get in touch with a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your rights remain upheld and protected at all times. Your attorney will assess the specifics of your situation and help you determine the most strategic course of action. Don’t leave your future up to chance—contact a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney right away.
If you need help navigating a theft charge in Pearland or Brazoria County, call the Law Offices of Keith G. Allen, PLLC, today at (832) 230-0075 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated criminal defense attorney.