Like most states, Texas takes theft crimes seriously. Theft offenses encompass a variety of crimes, including shoplifting, theft of service, auto theft, and more. In general, the penalties for theft correspond to the value of the property taken from the rightful owner—the more expensive the property, the harsher the consequences. If law enforcement has arrested you for a shoplifting offense in the Pearland or South Houston area, you are likely wondering what penalties you could face if you’re convicted of this crime. Below is a brief overview of Texas shoplifting charges, possible penalties you could face, and what steps you should take to keep your future as bright as possible.
How Texas Defines Theft Offenses
According to Title 7, Section 31.03 of the Texas Penal Code, “A person commits an offense [theft] if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.” The statute goes on to define unlawful appropriation of property as occurring when:
- The action happens without the owner’s effective consent;
- The property is stolen and the defendant appropriates the property with the knowledge that another person stole it; or
- Property in the custody of a law enforcement agency was explicitly represented by any law enforcement agent to the defendant as being stolen, and the defendant appropriates the property believing it was stolen.
Essentially, the prosecution must show that the defendant knowingly and purposely took possession of property lawfully belonging to someone else with the intent to deprive the owner of the property.
Shoplifting as a Theft Crime in Texas
One common form of theft is shoplifting. This action occurs when the defendant takes property belonging to a retail store without the store’s consent or without lawfully purchasing the property. To secure a conviction, prosecutors must prove intent—that the defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner (or store) of the property. The nature of the criminal penalties corresponds to the value of the property unlawfully removed from the store. Shoplifting valuable merchandise leads to steeper consequences than shoplifting smaller items of lesser value.
Penalties for Shoplifting in Texas
You could face either misdemeanor or felony charges for shoplifting in Texas, depending on the circumstances of the offense and the economic value of the property involved in the theft. The lowest theft charge, wherein a defendant shoplifts property valued below $100, is considered a Class C misdemeanor, carrying a maximum fine of $500. If convicted, you will be ordered to pay a fine, but no jail time is required. On the other end of the spectrum, shoplifting property valued at over $300,000 can lead to first-degree felony charges, carrying a fine of $10,000 and a prison sentence lasting between five to 99 years. Additional factors, such as having prior theft convictions on your record, can also lead to increased penalties.
Defensive Strategies for Shoplifting Charges
If you are facing shoplifting charges, it’s essential that you contact an experienced Pearland criminal defense attorney right away. Together, you can craft a solid defensive strategy to ensure your rights remain protected at every stage of the criminal justice process. There are several strategies you can explore, so discuss your situation with your attorney to determine the best course of action.
The Incident Was a Mistake or Accident
Some people may find themselves in the unfortunate situation of wandering around a store, picking up an item, forgetting they are holding the item, and walking out of the store. When this happens, the store tends to assume that the individual intended to shoplift the item. Remember, securing a shoplifting conviction hinges on the prosecution’s ability to demonstrate your intent. You and your attorney may find a strategic way to show that the incident was merely an accident or simple mistake.
You Were Mistaken For the Perpetrator
Busy retail stores can make it hard for employees to distinguish one customer from another. If an employee described the perpetrator’s physical appearance and law enforcement used this information to identify you, you could find yourself falsely accused of shoplifting. Your attorney will work hard to show that your presence at the scene does not prove that you were involved in the shoplifting incident.
No matter the specifics of your shoplifting case, you can trust that your criminal defense lawyer will work hard to defend your freedom and future.
Keeping Your Future as Bright as Possible
As soon as law enforcement arrests you for shoplifting, exercise your right to remain silent. Even if the officers ask to hear “your side of the story,” avoid discussing the incident until you have spoken with your attorney. Unfortunately, law enforcement often uses your words to build a case against you, so refrain from giving them information that could harm your case. Instead, focus on contacting a skilled Pearland attorney as soon as possible to discuss your situation. Together, you can navigate these shoplifting charges and work toward a favorable outcome.
If you or someone you love is facing shoplifting charges in Brazoria County or Pearland, call the Law Offices of Keith G. Allen, PLLC, today at (832) 230-0075 to schedule a free consultation with a trusted criminal defense attorney.