Can You Defend Against Shoplifting Charges?

May 19th, 2022 by Tad Nelson in Theft

It’s possible. As we always remind our clients, a criminal charge is not the same thing as a conviction. However, we need to understand some of the facts about your case. Please schedule a consultation with a League City criminal defense attorney today.

A Review of Shoplifting Laws & Penalties

Shoplifting is a theft crime in Texas. Under Texas Penal Code §31.03, theft is unlawfully taking another person’s property without their consent and with the intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner. When it comes to shoplifting, items belong to the store, so you are accused of trying to steal from the store.

Punishment will depend on the value of the goods stolen. Stealing less than $100 is a Class C misdemeanor which nets you a maximum $500 fine but no jail time. However, stealing goods valued between $750 and $2,500 is a Class A misdemeanor, with a $2,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail. The most serious theft charge is for goods valued at more than $300,000, which is a first-degree felony, punishable by life behind bars.

Fortunately, few people charged with shoplifting run off with $300,000 in goods. Still, any theft of goods valued at more than $100 can send you to jail. And you can end up in jail for even a minor theft if you have a prior theft conviction.

Our Defense Strategies

We have tried different strategies over the years when defending against shoplifting charges. Not every defense is appropriate, depending on the facts. Our firm isn’t in the habit of using “cookie cutter” defenses. Instead, we engage in thorough review of the facts to find the right strategy. Let’s look at a few:

  • Consent. In some stores, a manager or clerk might let you lug a heavy item out to your car before coming back in to pay. If you are stopped on your way outside, you could claim you had consent to stow the item in your trunk.
  • Lack of knowledge. For example, a clerk might have put an item in your bag without scanning it, so you leave without paying for it. This isn’t your fault. In particular, you have no knowledge as required by law that you are taking an item without permission.
  • Lack of intent to permanently deprive an owner of property. You might have been shopping with items in a basket when you step onto the sidewalk to look at items displayed there. This does not mean you were intending to leave without paying. Remember, the state needs proof of your intent to deprive, which is difficult.
  • Mistaken identity. Sometimes, the store doesn’t find goods on you. Instead, they use surveillance video to allege you stole items. These videos are sometimes grainy, and they might not accurately show who took an item.
  • The item was yours. You might go into a store with your cell phone charger because you are looking for a new one just like it. A security guard might see you put your charger back in your purse, believing you stole it. But you didn’t, because you already own it.

Contact Our League City Theft Attorney Today

Tad Nelson is an experienced criminal defense attorney who has helped defend against many theft charges. No charge is too small, since a criminal record lasts for a lifetime. Contact our law firm today to speak with one of our lawyers.

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