Shoplifting Crimes Under Texas Law
For many people, getting arrested for shoplifting is an embarrassing situation. It can label an individual as a thief for years to come. There are a lot of questions and concerns about how a shoplifting offense can affect your criminal record. Only an experienced lawyer can answer these questions so it is important to find competent legal representation when dealing with shoplifting offenses.
Houston Shoplifting Attorney
Matt Horak defends shoplifting and other theft crimes that occur in the greater Houston area, including Harris, Montgomery, Fort Bend, Waller, Brazoria, Galveston, and Liberty Counties. Mr. Horak is an experienced Houston Shoplifting Attorney, and he will ensure that this shoplifting offense is taken care of so it will not interfere with the rest of your life. If you or someone you know has been arrested or charged with shoplifting in Houston or the surrounding areas, you should contact Mr. Horak immediately at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free (800) 225-8009.
Many people believe that shoplifting is a petty crime that they can handle themselves, especially if they have no prior criminal history. The truth is a shoplifting conviction can have devastating effects on your educational and professional goals. In terms of education, you may be disqualified for several scholarships and federal financial aid due to a shoplifting offense on your criminal record. A conviction for shoplifting can also affect your employment because it can disqualify you for a number of jobs. It is standard practice to perform a criminal background on individuals seeking employment so one shoplifting conviction can seriously hinder your life for years to come.
Shoplifting falls under the broad category of theft crimes detailed in Texas Penal Code Section 31.03. Basically, a person commits a theft crime if he or she takes property from another person without permission with the intent to keep the property permanently. Examples of shoplifting include taking items from stores without paying for them or switching the tags on items to pay a lesser price for the item.
Houston theft crime defense attorney, Matt Horak have successfully defended a number of shoplifting cases. Possible defenses include showing the court there was no intent to shoplift or there was a mistake in identifying the shoplifter. There are dozens of defenses, but each case has a unique set of facts so it is important for an accused shoplifter to call The Law Offices of Matt Horak immediately so experienced lawyers can tailor a defense to your specific case.
Shoplifting Information Center
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What do I do if store security stops me and says I shoplifted?
The answer depends on whether you actually shoplifted or not. Sometimes loss prevention will approach people that look suspicious, but have not actually shoplifted to let the potential shoplifter know he is being watched. If you have shoplifted:
- Remain calm. Don’t try to flee the store. If you are in a chain store like Wal-Mart of Macy’s the security guards will chase you and call the police. You will probably add additional charges like fleeing from the police and resisting arrest to the original charge of shoplifting.
- Cooperate with the Loss Prevention Detective. Usually he will take you to the back of the store to question you. Ask for a witness to be present like another store employee or the manager of the store.
- Be careful about signing any paperwork the store gives you. It is store policy to create an incident report. Read anything they give you to sign carefully before you sign it. If you do not agree with what is written do not sign it.
- For stores like Target, Wal-Mart, TJMaxx and other chain stores in the mall like Macy’s, Dillards and Sears, it is store policy to call the police for shoplifting offenses. Generally the police will give you a citation and inform you of your court date.
- After receiving your citation, contact a competent attorney as soon as possible to ensure that the shoplifting charge does not cause problems for you later on in life.
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I was not shoplifting, but my friend was shoplifting and got caught. Can I be prosecuted for shoplifting too?
The answer is it depends. If you are completely unaware of your friend’s activities and did not participate in any way then probably you will not be prosecuted. If you acted as a lookout or actively helped facilitate your friend stealing the merchandise, odds are you can be charged as an accessory to the shoplifting.
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What is the difference between misdemeanor theft and felony theft?
The Texas Penal Code categorizes the severity of the shoplifting offense based on the value of the stolen item.
- The shoplifting offense is a Class C Misdemeanor if the value of the property stolen is worth $50 or less.
- The shoplifting offense is a Class B misdemeanor if the value of the property stolen is more than $50 but less than $500.
- The shoplifting offense is a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the property stolen is $500 or more but less than $1,500.
- A shoplifting offense can rise to the level of a state jail felony if the value of the property stolen is $1,500 or more but less than $20,000.
Value of stolen property Legal Consequences Potential Attorney Remedies
- Class C Misdemeanor $50 or less Fine: $500 or less Dismissal
- Class B Misdemeanor $50 - $500 180 days in jail or less. Fine up to $2000 Dismissal
- Class A Misdemeanor $500 - $1,500 Possibly up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000 Dismissal
- Felony $1,500- $20,000 Up to 2 years in jail and/or a fine of $10,000 Dismissal
The above chart has the general Penal Code guidelines for Texas. With an attorney it is possible to get misdemeanor and felony shoplifting cases completely dropped. Each case contains unique facts so it is essential to retain an attorney to go over all of your options.
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Do major chain stores prosecute shoplifters?
Yes. Do not think that you can steal small items from major retailers and they will not prosecute you for stealing a $2 candy bar. Historically Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, Dillards, Macys and a number of other popular major retailers have prosecuted shoplifters to the fullest extent of the law for shoplifting. In addition to criminal penalties, there are several civil liabilities that the retailer can choose to pursue.
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Can I pay restitution to get out of the shoplifting charges?
No. In general paying for the stolen items does not stop a criminal shoplifting charge from being filed against you.
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How do I stop shoplifters from stealing from my business?
There are a number of ways to make it harder for shoplifters to target your business. Here are a few effective tips:
- Use security cameras
- Have sales personnel greet customers and offer assistance
- Use security tags on items
- Post warnings telling shoplifters they will be prosecuted
- Make sure your store layout allows employees to easily see customers
- Keep items that are easily stolen behind the counter or in locked cases
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Could I have a shoplifting addiction?
In general shoplifters and thieves steal because they are motivated by money. They either want expensive things for themselves, or they want to steal expensive items and later sell them to make a profit. If a person has a shoplifting addiction it is possible that they have an obsessive compulsive disorder called kleptomania which creates an irresistible urge to take things regardless of their monetary value and usually with very little pre-meditation. Kleptomania is a surprisingly widespread disorder so if you suspect someone is suffering from this condition, notify a family doctor so they can refer you to a specialist.
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Civil Recovery For Shoplifting
A person convicted of shoplifting can face several criminal penalties such as fines, community service or jail time. However in Texas there are also civil penalties that the retailers can bring against the shoplifter and these civil penalties are separate from the criminal case.
Under Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code Section 134.005, “a person who has sustained damages resulting from theft may recover . . . actual damages, court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.” This statute gives retailers like Wal-Mart and Target the ability to sue the shoplifter for civil damages in the amount of up to $1000 against an individual. If the shoplifter is a minor this statute enables the retailer to sue the parents of the minor for up to $5000.
It is common practice for retailers like Wal-Mart to automatically bring criminal charges and civil charges against the accused shoplifter. It is very important to see a lawyer about civil claims as well as criminal claims. If you ignore the demand letter for civil damages it is possible to get a default judgment entered against you. Default judgments can affect your credit score and can cloud the title to your property. Only a professional lawyer can effectively challenge these civil lawsuits by providing you with a defense to the charges.
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Shoplifting Information and Resources
National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (Shoplifters Anonymous) (800) 848-9595 (toll-free)
Visit the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention website, or call their toll-free number for counseling, meetings and resources on how to successfully treat a shoplifting addiction.
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Matt Horak | Texas Shoplifting Defense Attorney
There are no minor criminal offenses or proceedings. If you are arrested for shoplifting, your time to protect your rights and your future is limited. You should contact the Law Offices of Matt Horak immediately to schedule a consultation. Call us today at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009. Houston criminal defense attorney, Matt Horak, represents defendants in Houston Texas and the surrounding areas, including Harris, Montgomery, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Galveston, Liberty, and Waller Counties.