While shoplifting may seem like a minor offense, a conviction for shoplifting can potentially entail serious consequences. If your child is accused of shoplifting, a criminal charge can significantly impact their future. If you or your child has been arrested for shoplifting in the Fort Bend County area, an experienced Fort Bend criminal defense attorney can help guide you through the legal process.
What Qualifies as Shoplifting Under Texas Law?
Shoplifting is considered to be a theft offense and is covered under Section 31 of the Texas Penal Code. According to Section 31.03, a theft offense is classified as the appropriation of another person’s property without their consent.
Typically, the term “shoplifting” refers specifically to the theft of items from a commercial or retail business. Shoplifting encompasses the deliberate physical removal of items as well as unintentional actions that result in theft. Switching an item’s price tag or exchanging one item’s packing for another for the purpose of paying a lower price is also considered shoplifting in Texas.
What Are the Penalties for a Shoplifting Conviction?
The penalties for shoplifting are the same as any other theft offense. Shoplifting may be treated as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the items stolen and whether or not you have any previous theft convictions.
The penalties for shoplifting and other theft offenses are outlined in Section 31.03. Under Texas law, convicted shoplifters may face the following:
I. Misdemeanor Offenses
There are three primary classes of misdemeanor theft offenses: Class A, Class B and Class C.
Class A – A Class A misdemeanor is the most serious misdemeanor charge. Typically, you can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor for shoplifting if the stolen property is valued at more than $500 but less than $1,500. If convicted of a Class A misdemeanor, you may be sentenced to up to one year in county jail and be required to pay a $400 fine.
Class B – If the stolen property in question is valued at more than $50 but less than $500, you may be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. A conviction for a Class B misdemeanor carries a jail sentence of up to 180 days and a $2,000 fine.
Class C – The least serious misdemeanor offense, conviction for a Class C misdemeanor carries a $500 fine. This type of misdemeanor charge is typically reserved for cases involving theft of items value at less than $50.
II. Felony Offenses
Felony offenses are more serious in nature and accordingly, carry much stiffer penalties. Felony theft offenses are also categorized according to the value of the stolen property.
First-Degree Felony – The most serious felony charge, a first-degree felony generally involves the theft of items valued at more than $200,000. Generally, shoplifting charges do not qualify as first-degree felonies. The penalty for a first-degree felony conviction is a prison term of between 5 and 99 years and a $10,000 fine.
Second-Degree Felony – A second-degree felony typically involves theft of items valued at more than $100,000 but less than $200,000. A second-degree felony conviction carries a penalty of imprisonment for 2 to 20 years and a $10,000 fine.
Third-Degree Felony – A third-degree felony charge is reserved for theft of items valued at more than $20,000 but less than $100,000. If convicted of a third-degree felony, you could receive between 2 and 10 years in state prison and have to pay a fine of up to $10,000.
State Jail Felony – The least serious felony charge, a state jail felony involves the theft of items valued at more than $1,500 but less than $20,000. Shoplifting cases can be tried as state jail felonies if you have previous misdemeanor convictions for theft. The penalty for a state jail felony is 180 days to 2 years in state jail and a $10,000 fine.
Shoplifting vs. Organized Retail Theft
If you worked as part of a team to shoplift items from a store, you may be charged with organized retail theft. Under Section 31.16 of the Texas Penal Code, organized retail theft occurs if:
a. A person intentionally conducts, promotes, or facilitates an activity in which the person receives, possesses, conceals, stores, barters, sells, or disposes of a total value of not less than $1,500 of:
1. stolen retail merchandise; or
2. merchandise explicitly represented to the person as being stolen retail merchandise.
Organized retail theft is treated differently than shoplifting under Texas law and is considered a felony offense. If you participated in an organized retail theft and actively directed or managed other people in cooperation with the scheme, your charges may be increased one degree, regardless of the value of the stolen items in question.
Are There Any Other Penalties for Shoplifting?
In addition to criminal charges, you may also face civil repercussions for your illegal actions. TheTexas Theft Liability Act allows the victims of theft to sue for damages relating to the stolen items. The law allows storeowners to sue shoplifters for the actual value of the stolen property, plus an additional $1,000 in damages. If the shoplifter is a minor, the victim can sue the juvenile’s parents for up to $5,000 in addition to the value of the items that were stolen.
What Should I Do if I’m Arrested for Shoplifting in Fort Bend County?
If you or your child has been arrested on shoplifting charges, your first priority should be enlisting the aid of an experienced Fort Bend County criminal defense lawyer. Lawrence Law Firm, PLLC specializes in helping juveniles and adults who have been accused of shoplifting or other theft offenses to protect their rights.
Shoplifting can occur unintentionally or it can simply be a teenager’s seemingly harmless prank. While your child may shrug off shoplifting as no big deal, it’s important to remember that a conviction for shoplifting can have serious repercussions. Their criminal record can make it difficult to get into a good college, secure scholarships or financial aid or find gainful employment.
Don’t let a criminal conviction ruin your life or the life of someone you love. Contact Jason Lawrence today at (832) 356-4404 to schedule an appointment for your initial case evaluation. Call now to get the experienced legal representation you need to fight a shoplifting charge in Fort Bend County.