What happens if you get caught shoplifting at Walgreens?

By Jose Ceja
Managing Attorney

Walgreens is one of the largest retailers in Houston with 105 stores in Houston as of 2023. As a corporation, Walgreens is known to be very conscious of economic loss (known as “shrinkage”) due to shoplifting. In other states, Walgreens is even experimenting with new stores where most merchandise is not accessible to customers and must be requested at a window. 

Walgreens is known to aggressively prosecute shoplifters and a large percentage of shoplifting cases in Harris County originate at Walgreens stores. Although most shoplifting cases filed in Houston are misdemeanors, it is critical to do whatever you can to keep the charge off of your record. This article discusses what you can expect after a shoplifting arrest at Walgreens. 

What kind of charge do you face for shoplifting at Walgreens?

In Texas, there is no charge called “shoplifting.” Instead, shoplifting is charged under the Texas theft statute, which makes it a crime to “unlawfully appropriate property with the intent to deprive” the owner of the property. Stealing merchandise from a store – what most people would consider shoplifting – is just one specific type of theft. 

The seriousness of the charge and the potential punishment you face after a shoplifting arrest is based on the value of the items “appropriated.” The sentencing range for theft/shoplifting is as follows: 

  • Theft is considered a Class C Misdemeanor if the value of the property stolen is worth $100 or less and is punishable by a fine up to $500.
  • Theft is considered a Class B Misdemeanor if the value of the property stolen is more than $100 but less than $750 and is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine up to $2,000.
  • Theft is considered a Class A Misdemeanor if the value of the property stolen is $750 or more but less than $2,500 and is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine up to $4,000.
  • Theft is considered a State Jail Felony if the value of the property stolen is $2,500 or more but less than $30,000 and is punishable by 180 days to two years in state jail and/or a fine up to $10,000.

These penalties can be increased if you have a prior theft conviction. As discussed below, it is important to understand that a theft charge can be filed even if you did not leave the store. All that is needed is some evidence that you acted with the “intent to deprive” the owner of the property. 

What can I expect from a shoplifting charge from Walgreens? 

If you have been arrested for shoplifting at Walgreens, you will be taken to jail in downtown Houston and released, typically with a free bond. If the value of the items that were allegedly stolen was under $100, you will likely be cited and released and given a future court date at a municipal court (this article mainly discusses what you can expect if you are charged with shoplifting over $100). 

After you are released from jail on a shoplifting charge, you will be given a court date within a week or so. At your first court date, a judge will typically review the bond conditions that you must follow while the case is pending (for example, the court may order you to not return to the store and not commit additional bond violations). Your case will not be decided at your first court date, and you will not be asked to say or do anything, except perhaps to acknowledge your bond conditions. 

In Houston, it is likely that your attorney can appear for you at future court dates (unless your appearance is needed). After your first court date on a shoplifting charge, your attorney will need to obtain the evidence in the case, which typically includes police reports and surveillance video. 

The goal of a shoplifting charge should be to get the case dismissed. Although shoplifting is most often filed as a misdemeanor in the Houston area, the long-term consequences of a conviction can be more sever than many felonies due to the stigma associated with theft. An effective shoplifting defense lawyer should have a good strategy to get the charges dismissed, which should start with challenging the facts of the case. 

How are shoplifting cases defended?

The most common defense in shoplifting and theft cases is that the defendant lacked the intent to steal. As noted above, the offense of theft requires that prosecutors prove that a person acted with the intent to deprive the owner of property. This means that accidentally taking an item, or leaving the store with an item, is not a crime if it was not done intentionally. 

To prove intent – or lack of intent – it is important to focus on the facts of a particular case. If it is obvious that a person intended to conceal items or even changed the price tags on items (which is considered theft), then it may be easier to prove intent to steal than if a person simply forgot to scan an inexpensive item while going through the self-scan register at Walgreens.

 The reality is that in many cases, prosecutors will have enough evidence to prove a shoplifting case. But even where the evidence against a defendant is strong, it is frequently possible for a criminal defense lawyer to negotiate a dismissal of the charges based on the defendant’s lack of criminal history or other mitigating factors. In Houston, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office even has a program that many first-time shoplifting defendants may be eligible for which results in the dismissal of a shoplifting charge. 

Whatever the facts of your case, it is critical to speak with an experienced shoplifting attorney as soon as possible if you have been charged with theft after an arrest at Walgreens or any other retailer. Attorney Jose Ceja is a former prosecutor with extensive experience in theft cases. Ceja Law Firm regularly helps clients charged with shoplifting obtain an expunction of a shoplifting charge after dismissal or an acquittal. Call Ceja Law Firm today for a free consultation.

About the Author
Jose Ceja is the managing attorney of Ceja Law Firm. He has practiced law since 2007 and has devoted his career to the practice of criminal law. Mr. Ceja began his legal career as a felony drug prosecutor, where he prosecuted drug, gang, and violent offenses. Mr. Ceja has first or second chaired almost 100 trials, including murders, drug cases, DWIs, and assaults. In his career as a defense attorney, he has regularly obtained dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and grand jury “no bills” in a wide variety of cases.