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Penalties of Shoplifting in Texas

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Penalties of Shoplifting in Texas

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Shoplifting in Texas is considered theft. Depending on the value of the merchandise stolen and the history of the accused shoplifter, the case can be tried as a felony. If you’re facing shoplifting charges, learn more about the consequences you may face (and how to defend yourself) below.

How Is Shoplifting Defined in Texas?

Shoplifting is addressed by Texas Penal Code Section 31.03. In many areas, it is the most common offense brought to court.

The penal code defines theft as unlawfully taking another person’s property, receiving property known to be stolen, or that you did not have the owner’s consent to take. Shoplifting is unlawfully taking a retailer’s property with the intention to deprive the rightful owner of belongings. Therefore, shoplifting cases hinge on the prosecution proving intent.

Classification of shoplifting is by value (in dollar amounts) of the merchandise stolen.

  • Class C Misdemeanor: < $100
  • Class B Misdemeanor: $100 – $750
  • Class A Misdemeanor: $750 – $2,500
  • State Jail Felony: $2,500 – $30,000
  • Third-degree Felony: $30,000 – $150,000
  • Second-degree Felony: $150,000 – $300,000
  • First-degree Felony: > $300,000

Shoplifting is a Class B Misdemeanor if the defendant has previous convictions of any grade of theft and the value of the property stolen is less than $100.

It is also a Class A Misdemeanor for possession, manufacture, or distribution of a shielding or deactivating device or instrument that neutralizes anti-theft devices attached to the merchandise.

A State Jail Felony includes defendants with two or more prior convictions for theft, and the value of the property stolen is more than $2,500.

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The Consequences of Shoplifting in Texas

You can be fined, sentenced to imprisonment, or both for shoplifting in Texas. The state allows retailers to sue adult shoplifters for actual damages as well as additional damages up to $1,000. If a minor shoplifts, the retailer can sue the minor’s parents or guardian for actual damages up to $5,000.

Here is a list of Texas shoplifting penalties. Keep in mind prior convictions, the value of the merchandise stolen, and other circumstances may reduce or increase these penalties.

  • Class C Misdemeanor: $500 fine
  • Class B Misdemeanor: $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail
  • Class A Misdemeanor: $4,000 fine and one year in jail
  • State Jail Felony: $10,000 fine and two years in jail
  • Third-degree Felony: $100,000 fine and 2 to 10 years imprisonment
  • Second-degree Felony: $100,000 fine and 2 to 30 years imprisonment
  • First-degree Felony: $100,000 fine and 5 to 99 years imprisonment

If you shoplift a $99 bracelet, you could wind up paying for the bracelet, plus additional damages up to $1,000 and a $500 fine. That’s nearly $1,600 for a single piece of jewelry – and the original price ends up being only a fraction of the penalty.

If you have a prior theft conviction, the penalty for shoplifting that $99 bracelet increases to a Class B Misdemeanor, and your fine can be $2,000, four times the fine for a first offense. You could also be looking at three months in jail.

Suppose you used a shielding or deactivating device to shoplift the bracelet because it had an anti-shoplifting device attached. In that case, you are set up for a Class A Misdemeanor worth a $4,000 fine and one year in jail, even if this is the first theft offense.

Defenses Against a Shoplifting Charge

You can defend against shoplifting charges and, under some circumstances, the charges can be expunged from your record.

Available defenses include:

  • Mistake or accident – the retailer placed an item in your bag that wasn’t scanned, but you didn’t realize it wasn’t paid for. In this case, there is no intent to deprive the retailer of merchandise.
  • You paid for the item – perhaps the scanning equipment isn’t working correctly. You paid for the item, but it wasn’t recorded. You are not responsible.
  • The item belongs to you – you are accused of stealing an item such as a coat, watch, or ring that already belongs to you. In this case, the charges may be dropped.
  • Someone else stole the item – the case is one of mistaken identity in which the retailer mistook you for the real offender.
  • You abandoned the item – you might have considered taking it but left it somewhere in the store before you were caught. This defense is not as strong as the others listed.

Remember, the prosecutor must prove intent – the intent to deprive the rightful owner (the retailer) of an item that you do not have permission to take without paying.

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What to Do If Charged with Shoplifting

In Texas, shoplifting is a serious charge. Even though the first three charges are labeled misdemeanors, theft is not a minor infraction.

You may be charged with shoplifting under certain conditions despite showing the retailer that there was a mistake or that item was already yours. And, to acknowledge the information above, merely abandoning something you intended to take because you changed your mind may not be enough to keep you from being taken in.

Instead of trying to defend yourself or depending on an overworked, over-stressed, court-appointed lawyer, hire a knowledgeable shoplifting attorney who understands the Texas Penal Code regarding theft. You can get the charge reduced, dismissed, or dropped entirely with the right defense.

Shoplifting is theft in the eyes of Texas. The state gets tough on those it considers thieves and always has. If you are charged with shoplifting within the state, you are being charged with general theft. You are subject to increasingly hefty fines and the possibility of imprisonment for taking something off a store shelf and removing it from the retailer’s premises.

Under the right circumstances, you could wind up with a felony charge on your permanent record. You would be paying a steep price for an item that probably costs a tiny fraction of your eventual bill.

It’s also essential to understand how to defend yourself when the retailer makes a mistake.

You can find an experienced shoplifting attorney by contacting our office by phone or using the online contact form. We can discuss your situation to determine the best way to help you.

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