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How Is Shoplifting Prosecuted in Texas?

Theft and shoplifting are among the most common types of misdemeanor crimes prosecuted in Texas. The severity of a theft charge is tied to the value of the property stolen. For example, under Section 31.03(e) of the Texas Penal Code, theft of property is a Class B misdemeanor if the value of the property stolen is at least $100 but less than $750. A person can also be charged with Class B theft if they stole something worth less than $100 but had a prior theft conviction, or if the item stolen was a driver’s license or personal identification certificate.

Houston Woman Convicted of Taking $258 in Perfume

Theft charges may arise from a simple misunderstanding. But that does not mean you will not be charged, tried, and convicted. Even if you think you have taken an item from a store lawfully, if the owner disagrees you could be facing some serious consequences.

Here is a recent example from here in Houston. The defendant in this case purchased a bottle of perfume from a well-known department store. The perfume cost $125.

What happened next was the subject of the defendant’s criminal trial. According to the defendant’s account of events, after she purchased the perfume, she spoke to a vendor in the store and realized there was a “gift set” available with the same perfume she had just bought for a lower price. She wanted to exchange her bottle for the gift set, and in the process of trying to find the correct department, she accidentally exited the store with the gift set.

But a store employee who testified for the prosecution said the defendant never asked her about making an exchange. Rather, the defendant asked her where the bathroom was. In addition, a store “loss prevention officer” testified that, contrary to the defendant’s testimony, the gift set was not cheaper than the perfume she purchased. Rather, it was worth $258.

A jury found the defendant guilty of Class B theft. While the judge imposed a jail term of 180 days–the maximum allowed by Texas law–the court suspended that sentence and instead placed the defendant on community supervision (probation) for 18 months and ordered her to pay a $250 fine. On appeal, the defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence against her, but the Texas First District Court of Appeals rejected that claim and affirmed her conviction.

Do You Need Help Fighting a Misdemeanor Theft Charge?

As with many instances of alleged shoplifting, store surveillance video helped make the case against the defendant above. Remember, you are almost always being recorded inside a retail store. And it can be difficult to explain a mistake or misunderstanding to a jury in the face of such evidence.

This is why it is critical to work with an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer if you are charged with any misdemeanor crime such as theft. Not only can a misdemeanor conviction lead to probation or jail time, it can affect your reputation and ability to seek employment or housing. If you are in the Houston, League City, or Galveston areas and need to speak with a lawyer right away, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates at (281) 280-0100.