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Is It Still Considered Shoplifting If the Stolen Items Never Leave the Store?

Shoplifting is one of the more common misdemeanor crimes that occur in Texas. Legally speaking, shoplifting is a form of theft, and the severity of the charge will depend on the retail value of the items involved. Regarding the actual definition of theft, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has said it is essentially the “taking [of] certain specified property away from its rightful owner or depriving that owner of its use or enjoyment.”

Houston Man Receives 59 Days in Jail for Taking Goods from Wal-Mart

The Texas First District Court of Appeals here in Houston recently addressed the question over whether this legal definition of theft required proof that a defendant actually left the store with the allegedly shoplifted merchandise. Prosecutors charged the defendant in this case, Rodgers v. State, with Class B misdemeanor theft, which covers the shoplifting of property valued between $100 and $750. The original criminal information charging the defendant alleged he took “food items, gloves, and tolls” from a Wal-Mart.

At trial, a Wal-Mart employee testified he observed the defendant taking merchandise from the shelves, removing their tags, and placing them into Wal-Mart bags. The employee said the defendant then used the self-checkout at the store but only scanned some of the items in his bags. As the defendant walked towards the exit, the employee confronted him. The employee took the defendant to the back office, where he reviewed all of the items the defendant allegedly did not pay for, which he said had a combined retail price of about $245. Wal-Mart subsequently contacted the police.

The jury found the defendant guilty of theft. The defendant received a sentence of 59 days in jail, which he’d already served while awaiting trial. Nevertheless, the plaintiff appealed the conviction, arguing there was insufficient evidence to support the theft charge.

More precisely, the defendant argued that the evidence failed to show he “appropriated property or deprive the owner of use and enjoyment of the property” since he never actually left the store with the shoplifted merchandise. The First District rejected that line of thinking. It explained that a person can still “commit theft without completely leaving the store.” Wal-Mart employees testified that the defendant had “passed all points of sale” and was physically at the exit when he was stopped. More to the point, the defendant had concealed items in his shopping bag and failed to pay for them, which was sufficient to show that he “exercised control over the property and reduced it to his possession.”

Put another way, the First District explained, the act of “carrying away or removing property” from the owner’s premises is not an essential element of the crime of theft.

Speak with a Houston Misdemeanor Crimes Defense Attorney Today

Large retailers like Wal-Mart invest heavily in their anti-shoplifting programs and will not hesitate to press charges even when a small amount of goods are taken. That is why if you are detained and arrested on shoplifting charges, you need to work with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney who will zealously represent your interests. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston and League City today if you need legal advice or assistance right away. Call (281) 280-0100.