November 23, 2023
Shoplifting is America’s number one property crime, causing stores to bleed billions of dollars each year. It’s no surprise that businesses are fighting back against retail theft.
Texas takes theft seriously, and if you’re staring down a shoplifting charge here, you must prepare for what’s at stake and how to defend yourself.
Here’s the lowdown on Texas theft laws and shoplifting defenses in Texas.
Shoplifting Laws in Texas
In Texas, shoplifting falls under the broad umbrella of theft. According to the Texas Penal Code, theft involves getting hold of someone’s property illegally and keeping it away from the rightful owner.
To put it simply, shoplifting is when someone leaves a store with stuff they did not pay for. But it’s more than just the typical snatch-and-run scenario.
Apart from sneaking stolen goods into your pockets or bag, a shoplifting offense can take other forms, including:
- Failing or pretending to scan merchandise at the self-checkout register
- Swapping price tags on items to pay less than the actual price
- Returning stolen items for cash
- Tampering with security tags or using a jammer
- Conspiring with store employees to commit invoicing scams or return fraud
- Assisting someone involved in shoplifting
What Are the Types of Shoplifting Charges in Texas?
The potential consequences of a shoplifting or theft offense depend on the value of the things you’re accused of taking. Sometimes, previous shoplifting convictions might factor into how serious the charges are for future shoplifting incidents.
Let’s take a look at the classifications of theft offenses in Texas:
- Class C Misdemeanor: Theft of property below $100
- Class B Misdemeanor: Theft of property valued around $100–$750
- Class A Misdemeanor: Theft of property valued around $750–$2,500
- State Jail Felony: Property theft valued around $2,500–$30,000, or if the stolen property is a firearm, or the property is stolen from another person
- Third-Degree Felony: Theft of property valued around $30,000–$150,000
- Second-Degree Felony: Theft of property valued at $150,000–$300,000
- First-Degree Felony: Theft of property valued over $300,000
What Are the Defense Strategies for a Shoplifting Charge in Texas?
Most shoplifting cases in Texas are classified as misdemeanor theft charges. However, a theft conviction on your criminal record can be just as significant as a felony charge and have lasting repercussions.
It can stain your permanent record and limit future employment.
But keep in mind that you have legal rights. No matter how serious the accusations are, a seasoned shoplifting attorney by your side can build a solid legal defense and shoot for the best outcome.
Here are some defensive strategies that a criminal defense attorney can use to help your case:
- Lack of Intent
You can raise a lack of intent as your primary defense when there’s an absence of a deliberate plan to commit a crime. It’s a strong card to play when facing a shoplifting charge. The crux of this defense is to make it crystal clear that there was absolutely no intent to steal.
Your criminal defense attorney can help establish a lack of criminal intent on your behalf. They may argue that there was no intent to permanently deprive the store of the goods or that you simply made an innocent mistake.
- Mistaken Identity
Sometimes, individuals may be wrongfully accused of shoplifting due to misunderstandings or false allegations.
Your attorney can investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident to prove that the accusations are unfounded or that you were mistakenly identified as the culprit.
- Lack of Evidence
A skilled lawyer can examine the evidence against you and look for weaknesses or inconsistencies to challenge the prosecution’s case.
One way to approach this is to raise doubts about the evidence presented. This might mean poking holes in the surveillance footage or eyewitness testimony.
What Are the Civil Penalties for Shoplifting in Texas?
Penalties for shoplifting can include hefty fines, restitution, probation, community service, and even imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense.
Under Texas law, retail stores can seek civil fines to compensate for actual damages, in addition to any criminal charges.
The good news is that there are some ways to soften the blow. In some cases, it may be beneficial to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecution.
One option is to admit guilt to a lesser offense in exchange for a lighter punishment or other favorable terms. A skilled lawyer can work to get you the best deal possible.
Can You Get Jail Time for Shoplifting in Texas?
The short answer is yes.
You can potentially face jail time for shoplifting in Texas. For instance, you can spend 180 days in jail for a class B misdemeanor or two years in state jail for a state jail felony.
What Should You Do If You’re Accused of Shoplifting?
Here’s what you should do if you ever find yourself in the middle of a shoplifting incident:
- Stay Calm and Remain Silent
Take a breath and stay collected, even if things feel intense. Freaking out won’t do you any favors.
Next, exercise your right to remain silent. You don’t have to explain yourself or incriminate yourself by talking too much.
You can politely let the store personnel know you’d prefer not to make any statements until you’ve consulted with an attorney.
- Be Aware of “Shopkeeper’s Privilege”
Did you know that store employees can detain you if they have reason to believe you’ve swiped an item from the shop?
This is called the shopkeeper’s privilege.
But there are limits to this—they can only keep you for a reasonable amount of time, just enough to conduct an initial investigation. Plus, they cannot use deadly force when trying to detain you.
Understanding your rights and making sure you’re treated fairly in the process is crucial. If you feel your rights are being violated, be sure to document the situation.
That’s a wrap on Texas theft laws and shoplifting defenses in Texas.
Don’t let a shoplifting charge define your life.
If you find yourself in this situation, the first step is to contact a reputable criminal defense lawyer for a confidential consultation. They can evaluate your case, explore potential defense strategies, and help you understand the legal consequences.
Remember, you’re not alone in this. A knowledgeable legal team can ensure a fair legal process for you and protect your future.