Shoplifting Charges – If you have been accused of any level of theft (misdemeanor or felony), then you should know you are facing serious penalties. The consequences of theft charges are not only the penalties you can get in court, but also your criminal record can make every part of your life more difficult. We are here to help.
Shoplifting Charges After Leaving a Store
Most shoplifting cases arise from a department store (e.g. Wal-Mart, Dillard’s). Often a “loss prevention officer” monitors people on surveillance video. Then if someone is suspected of shoplifting the store sends a worker to get closer. Occasionally, a suspected shoplifter will be stopped and questioned before attempting to leave the store. However, most often the “loss prevention” workers wait until the suspected shoplifter walks past all “points of sale.”
When someone is stopped for suspicion of shoplifting, they are usually taken to the security office. There, everyone waits on the police to arrive. Once the police arrive usually an arrest is made and a “criminal trespass” warning is issued. During this process, your rights may be violated, and those violations may have a huge impact (possible dismissal) on your case. This is something you need to discuss with your shoplifting lawyer.
Can a shoplifting charge be dropped?
What can a Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer do to help get a shoplifting charge dropped? First, you should understand that every shoplifting case is unique. Even though most charges arise from an accusation of leaving a store without paying for merchandise, the specific factual and legal issues can have subtle but important differences. The other, and perhaps most important, factor that makes each case different is the characteristics of the person accused. Our strategy can be very different for a person facing first time shoplifting charges compared to someone facing a felony shoplifting charge based on prior convictions.
Challenging the Evidence in a Shoplifting Case
In many cases, getting shoplifting charges dropped may depend on a criminal defense attorney’s ability to get evidence thrown out. Often the evidence against you includes video recordings or witnesses. Other cases are considered circumstantial. Even without a video or eyewitnesses, properly defending theft cases requires your attorney’s hard work and caring.
Many people arrested for shoplifting have been questioned by police or “loss prevention” officers. In many cases an attorney may be able to challenge the procedure used during an interrogation. Based on legal arguments, some incriminating statements may be suppressed (excluded from evidence). This relates to your Miranda Rights (Fifth and Sixth Amendment Rights) or Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 38.22.
Another area of Texas shoplifting law (Fourth Amendment), allows evidence obtained from illegal searches or seizures to be thrown out of court. When law enforcement obtains evidence as a result of violating your privacy or property rights, your defense attorney can request that the court exclude the evidence by way of a motion to suppress the evidence.
In some cases the person accused simply did not commit the offense of shoplifting. In these circumstances, your criminal defense lawyer needs to be able to challenge the State’s case on the facts. This could mean convincing the prosecutor that you are innocent or defending your case at trial. In these situations, you need to find an experienced and skilled criminal defense attorney trial attorney.
If you are a parent of someone facing a first time shoplifting charge this is not a time to make your child “take their lumps” through the legal system. You parent and teach your child, but don’t saddle them with a theft conviction that is going to make the rest of their lives harder. Get an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent your child, and use the entire experience as a teaching opportunity.
Penalties for Shoplifting and Theft Charges
The penalty for shoplifting or theft charges increases as the value of the “loss” increases. These charges can be a felony or misdemeanor. The penalties based on loss range from a ticket to a felony with a possible Life sentence in prison.
|Under $100||Class C Misdemeanor||$500 fine|
|$100 to $750||Class B Misdemeanor||Up to 180 days jail|
|$750 to $2,500||Class A Misdemeanor||Up to 365 days jail|
|$2,500 to $30,000||State Jail Felony||180 days to 2 years State Jail|
|$30,000 to $150,000||Third Degree Felony||2-10 years prison|
|$150,000 to $300,000||Second Degree Felony||2-20 years prison|
|More than $30,000||First Degree Felony||5-99 years or Life in prison|
Felony Shoplifting Charges
Like many Texas crimes, a theft charge may range in seriousness of penalty. This range is from a ticket (fine only) to Life in prison. Several factors impact whether a theft is a misdemeanor or felony. A person’s criminal history can increase the seriousness of a theft crime based on an “enhancement.” A special class of alleged victim may also increase the penalty. Of course, the value of items alleged to have been stolen impacts how a theft is charged. Regardless of why your theft charge is a felony, you need a criminal defense attorney working on your case immediately. Time is of the essence in preparing the best defense or working to get the prosecutor to drop or reduce your charges.
Misdemeanor Charges in Fort Worth
We represent people accused of Class A and B Misdemeanor Thefts. The most common misdemeanor theft charge is “Shoplifting.” Misdemeanor theft can result in up to a year in jail and $4,000 fine. Also, even these lower level charges can have a permanent impact on your employability and background checks. If you are charged with misdemeanor theft in Tarrant County, then you need to seek the advice of a criminal defense attorney. If you act fast, your lawyer may be able to get your case dismissed, so you can later get the theft expunged from your record.
In Texas, shoplifting charges are serious and theft is the most prosecuted crime in state court. Tarrant County criminal courts are no exception. If the alleged value of theft is relatively high you can be facing a serious prison sentence. A conviction for theft can make a person practically unemployable in the professional Texas job market. There are many forms of theft in Texas, including shoplifting, theft by check, and others. Any of these theft charges can have serious consequences in court and in your life. Because the consequences for a theft conviction are so great, it is important to find the best Fort Worth theft attorney possible for your theft case.
First Time Shoplifting Charges
Just because you have never been in trouble before does not mean the prosecutor is going to let you off easy. There is no “rule” that says a first-time offender gets off with a dismissal. First time shoplifting charges can have serious consequences, not the least of which could be a permanent criminal records. A theft charge is considered a “crime of moral turpitude.” So, if it is on your record it can keep you from getting jobs or getting into school (college or vocational).
Some first time offenders may qualify for one of several Tarrant County deferred prosecution program. These programs are designed to allow a young shoplifter (first offender) to ultimately get the record expunged. The rules and policies for these programs change regularly. This is one reason you need to consider hiring a local attorney. Our office is downtown Fort Worth, Texas, a few blocks from the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center (courthouse and office of DA). Your shoplifting lawyer needs to discuss how you may get into these programs or what you should do if you cannot get into a first offender program.
Important Texas Shoplifting Laws
Can you be charged with shoplifting if you didn’t steal anything?
Yes, you may be charged with shoplifting if you are with a person that steals something. You may have heard the term “accomplice” used on TV. In Texas, when one person is held responsible for the criminal conduct of another person this is usually under what is known as the “law of parties.”
The Law of Parties means Person A is criminally responsible for Person B if Person A encourages or helps Person B to commit a crime. The classic example of the “law of parties” at work is the get-away driver. Person A goes in to steal something while Person B waits with the car running. Both Person A and Person B are criminally responsible.
Do you need a lawyer for a misdemeanor shoplifting charge?
This is a lawyer’s website, so obviously the advice you get here is, “Yes, you need a lawyer.” Honestly, the real question isn’t whether you need to get a lawyer. The real question is, “How fast can you get a lawyer?” Shoplifting cases are theft charges. Theft is very serious. Also, Tarrant County has very strict deadlines related to the programs you can enroll in to get your shoplifting charge dismissed. Do not wait until your court date to get a shoplifting lawyer. Call us (or someone) today. We need to get started on your case.
Is shoplifting considered theft?
Yes, in Texas we have most of our “theft” charges bundled into what is called a “consolidated statute.” Texas Penal Code § 31.03 contains most varieties of theft, and shoplifting fit into this law (statute). So, if you get convicted for “shoplifting” then your criminal history is going to say you have a conviction for theft. Shoplifting laws in Texas may be different than other states, so be sure to find resources and attorneys familiar with the laws applicable to you and your case.
What can a store do if they suspect a person of shoplifting?
A store can stop and detain a suspect if they have “probable cause” – meaning they have seen the suspect take the merchandise, conceal it, move or modify the item and/or fail to pay for the item before leaving the store. The store may also demand the return of the merchandise, ban the suspected shoplifter from their store with a criminal trespass warning, and file a report with law enforcement to have the case prosecuted. There are also civil penalties for shoplifting. So, you may get a “demand letter” asking you to pay the store money for shoplifting, even when the store received all of the property back.