Shoplifting might not seem like a very serious charge at first glance, but it can hold grave implications for a defendant’s educational and career prospects. Shoplifting and other charges of petty theft should be treated seriously and handled by a knowledgeable defense lawyer even if they are classified as misdemeanors.
What is Shoplifting?
Under Texas state law, the crime of shoplifting is included in the broader category of theft. Theft is legally defined as the taking of property without the owner’s permission and without the intent to return the property to its owner. Shoplifting primarily occurs when someone takes an item from a store without paying for it. A less common form of shoplifting involves the manipulation of price tags to make an item appear less expensive than it actually is.
The Texas Penal Code classifies charges of shoplifting according to the value of the property taken:
- The theft of property worth less than $50 is a Class C misdemeanor.
- The theft of property worth between $50 and $499 is a Class B misdemeanor.
- The theft of property worth between $500 and $1,499 is a Class A misdemeanor.
- The theft of property worth between $1,500 and $19,999 is a state jail felony.
Possible Penalties for Shoplifting
Defendants convicted on charges of shoplifting may face the following penalties:
- Class C misdemeanor: A fine of up to $500
- Class B misdemeanor: A fine of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail
- Class A misdemeanor: A fine of up to $4,000 and up to one year in jail
- State jail felony: A fine of up to $10,000 and up to two years in state jail
The store involved in the shoplifting case may also sue the shoplifter. Any civil suit pursued by the retailer is completely separate from ongoing criminal proceedings.
The possible consequences extend beyond fines and time in confinement. A shoplifting conviction can bar the accused individual from receiving certain scholarships and forms of federal aid. It may also prevent the defendant from getting certain jobs or pursuing certain career paths.
To avoid any dire consequences, the accused should get in touch with a shoplifting attorney like James Alston.
Possible Defenses Against Shoplifting Charges
The defense may fight against a charge of shoplifting by arguing that:
- The property in question was taken accidentally.
- The accused shoplifter was mistakenly identified by store staff or other witnesses.
To successfully argue for a conviction, prosecutors must clearly establish the identity and the intent of the accused shoplifter. If either of these points can be questioned, there may be grounds for the court to dismiss the case.
Contact a Houston Shoplifting Lawyer
Shoplifting is a serious charge that demands a serious response. Any defendant who faces allegations should hire a shoplifting attorney who has the knowledge to successfully defend the accused.
James Alston is an accomplished Houston defense attorney with years of experience prosecuting and defending against charges of theft. Talk to the Law Office of James Alston today to schedule a free consultation.
Get your questions answered - call me for your free telephone consultation at (713) 228-1400