How do I get my shoplifting case dismissed?

If you are charged with theft (which covers the offense of shoplifting, but also includes other types of theft) in Texas, it is critical that you do anything possible to get your case dismissed. Although most theft cases filed in the State of Texas are misdemeanors, the potential consequences of a theft conviction can be more detrimental and long-lasting than almost any other misdemeanor and even many felonies.

It is not hard to see how a shoplifting case and theft conviction on your record could lead to problems finding employment as almost any employer would hesitate to hire someone accused of a crime involving dishonesty. A felony theft conviction could also affect your voting rights, gun ownership rights, or right to serve on a jury. Finally, if you are not a United States Citizen even a misdemeanor theft conviction could be detrimental to your chances of becoming a United States Citizen as it is known as a “crime of moral turpitude” which is basically a category of offenses involving dishonesty.

Fortunately, there are several ways to get the case dismissed if you are charged with theft. As in all criminal cases, first your lawyer must obtain the evidence. In a theft case, this typically includes a police report, surveillance videos, and witness statements. The process of collecting the evidence in a theft or shoplifting case can take several months but it is important that this process plays out and your attorney has the opportunity to fully evaluate the evidence.

In general, cases are dismissed for two reasons – legal reasons, and factual reasons. Legal reasons are instances where the State cannot prosecute you because there is some principle of law that makes it difficult or impossible for the State to move forward with a case. For example, if the State took three years to file your shoplifting case (the statute of limitation is Texas for theft is two years), then your prosecution is barred and your case should be dismissed. Also, if police violated your rights in some way (like failing to read your Miranda rights if you were under arrest), and they need your confession to prove the case against you, then the case could be dismissed if your attorney is able to get your confession suppressed.

A case can be dismissed for factual reasons when the evidence against you is simply weak. There are many reasons why a shoplifting case should be dismissed for factual reasons. For example, perhaps the State has difficulty proving that you intended to steal an item. If you mistakenly take an item from a store, you may not be guilty of shoplifting because the State will have a difficult time proving intent. Most criminal offenses in Texas require that the State prove the element of intent, and theft and shoplifting are no exceptions. 

Even if there is no legal or factual reason why your shoplifting case could get dismissed, most counties have pre-trial diversion programs that could lead to the dismissal of your case if the program is successfully completed. A large percentage of theft cases are shoplifting cases where a person with no prior criminal history makes an impulsive decision to take something from a department store and many counties recognize that these defendants deserve a second chance.

A pre-trial diversion program is an agreement with the State that if you complete certain requirements, your case will be dismissed. The terms and availability of shoplifting pre-trial diversion programs varies by county. In Harris County, for example, the program is known as the Retail Theft Diversion Program and is 90 days long and is available only to defendants that meet certain requirements. Counties such as Fort Bend or Montgomery County also have pre-trial diversion cases but the requirements differ. Although it is generally much better to get a theft case dismissed outright, and without the conditions that come with a program, a pre-trial diversion program is a good option to keep a theft case off of your record in many cases.

Once all of the evidence in your shoplifting case has been obtained by your attorney, your attorney should review it with you and recommend the best strategy to get a favorable result. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to explain the strengths and weaknesses of the State’s case and help you make an informed decision on how to resolve your shoplifting case.

If you are charged with shoplifting or theft, it is critical that you obtain experienced, aggressive representation. The consequences of a theft conviction could impact you the rest of your life and you should do whatever you can to get your case dismissed. If you are charged with shoplifting or theft anywhere in the Greater Houston area, attorney Jose Ceja is an excellent choice to help you obtain the best possible result.