Although most shoplifting cases filed in Houston are filed as Class “B” or Class “C” misdemeanors, they can still leave a stain on your record that can make it difficult to find work, housing or obtain a professional license. It is not difficult to see that having a shoplifting arrest on your record could make it harder to land a competitive job or promotion. Whatever your situation, if you have been arrested for shoplifting, it is critical that you do whatever is possible to clear your name and get a shoplifting charge removed from your record. But how do you do that? Is it possible to get any shoplifting charges removed from your record?
In order to get a shoplifting charge completely off of your record, you have to obtain an expunction. An expunction of a shoplifting arrest results in records of the arrest being destroyed. When you obtain an expunction of a shoplifting charge, you can also legally deny the existence of the arrest in most instances. In short, an expunction is the goal of a shoplifting arrest.
However, it is important to remember that not every shoplifting arrest is eligible for an expunction. Under Texas law, there are only certain shoplifting arrests that are eligible for an expunction. In Texas, most people who are eligible to get a shoplifting case expunged become eligible because their case is dismissed or because they went to trial and were found “not guilty” (there are other situations that could entitle a person to an expunction, such as a pardon, but these situations are almost never applicable in shoplifting cases).
Unfortunately, if you were convicted of shoplifting, you cannot get your records expunged. This means that if you accepted a jail sentence (including a jail sentence of “time served”) you cannot get your shoplifting case expunged. Pleading guilty to a shoplifting charge is typically a very bad idea that can have highly negative consequences to your future. It is critical that you hire an attorney who has a clear strategy to get your shoplifting case dismissed.
If you are placed on probation for shoplifting, you are also generally not eligible to have your arrest expunged. The only exception to this is if you successfully completed a deferred adjudication probation for Class “C” theft. Under Texas, law Class “C” deferred adjudication probations are generally expungable if completed successfully. But any other type of probation (whether completed successfully or not) would not entitle you to get an expunction.
Effective criminal defense attorneys must understand the law, clearly explain it to their clients and work to get the best result. In a shoplifting case, this means that the attorney will work to get the case dismissed by first challenging the facts of the case and whether the State can prove that a defendant knowingly committed the offense of theft. To challenge the facts of a shoplifting case, an attorney must obtain the evidence, which in a shoplifting case typically includes police reports, videos and witness statements.
Once the evidence has been received, an attorney should review it with the client and discuss the best strategy to get the charges dismissed. The reality is that in many cases, the State of Texas will be able to prove a shoplifting case, and in these cases, an attorney should work to negotiate a dismissal in some other way. In Houston and Fort Bend County, for example, there are also programs known as Retail Theft Diversion programs that result in the dismissal of a case if certain conditions are completed.
If your goal is to clear a shoplifting case off of your record, getting the case dismissed – as a result of a lack of evidence or through a program offered by the District Attorney – should be the goal. Once your case is dismissed, you will typically be eligible to have your records expunged, which is a separate legal procedure. An expunction can be thought of as a lawsuit that orders any agency with a record of the shoplifting arrest to destroy it. Under the law, once an expunction is complete, it is essentially as if the arrest never happened.
It is impossible for a defense attorney to predict how a shoplifting case will be resolved and attorneys are prohibited from making guarantees on the outcome of a case, as attorneys do not control the facts. But a knowledgeable and hard-working criminal defense attorney can make the difference between being able to clear a shoplifting charge off of your record or having to deal with the consequences of a permanent conviction.
If you have been arrested for shoplifting anywhere in the Greater Houston Area, call Ceja Law Firm. Attorneys Jose Ceja and April Lopez have helped hundreds of defendants charged with shoplifting obtain dismissals of their cases and put the charge behind them.