When you are accused of a crime, you need legal representation, even for minor crimes such as shoplifting. There are several reasons you might be arrested for shoplifting, many of them completely innocent. Whatever the reason, a criminal charge is not something to take lightly. Criminal charges can stick on your record and negatively impact your future. Having earned a reputation as a zealous advocate, Houston criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Jose Ceja fights diligently for every client. This means you are in capable hands when you hire the Ceja Law Firm.
Shoplifting: Theft and the Value of Property Stolen
The legal name for shoplifting is theft. Theft is the taking or obtaining property with the intent to deprive another of that property. The degree of crime and punishment depends on the value of the merchandise or goods taken.
- Theft of merchandise valued at less than $100 is a Class C misdemeanor. The punishment for a Class C misdemeanor is a fine of up to $500.
- Theft of merchandise valued between $100 and $750 is a Class B misdemeanor. The punishment for a Class B misdemeanor is a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail.
- Theft of merchandise valued between $750 and $2,500 is a Class A misdemeanor. The punishment for a Class A misdemeanor is a fine of up to $4,000 and up to one year in jail.
- Theft of merchandise valued between $2,500 and $30,000 is a state jail felony. The punishment for a state jail felony is a fine of up to $10,000 and between 180 days to 2 years in jail.
- Theft of merchandise valued between $30,000 and $150,000 is a felony in the third degree. The punishment for a felony in the third degree is a fine of up to $10,000 and between 2 and 10 years in prison.
- Theft of merchandise valued between $150,000 and $300,000 is a felony in the second degree. The punishment for a felony in the second degree is a fine of up to $10,000 and between 2 and 20 years in prison.
- Theft of merchandise valued over $300,000 is a felony in the first degree. The punishment for a felony in the first degree is a fine of up to $10,000 and between 5 and 99 years in prison.
Organized Retail Theft
Theft is not just limited to the act of shoplifting. In Texas, a person can be charged with organized retail theft for facilitating any activity in which the person receives, possesses, conceals, stores, barters (1) stolen merchandise, or (2) merchandise represented as being stolen. This means a person can be charged if he or she believed the merchandise was stolen, even if the merchandise was not actually stolen. The punishment for organized retail theft follows the punishment for shoplifting, varying depending on the value of the merchandise involved.
Texas statute provides that anyone who is found guilty of leading a retail theft ring will be punished with the next higher punishment as those applied to general theft. This means if a person organized or led a shoplifting ring that stole merchandise valued at $50,000, typically a felony in the third degree, he or she could be charged with a felony in the second degree.
Punishment is also enhanced if, during the commission of the theft, the person caused a fire alarm to sound, deactivated a fire alarm, or tampered with anti-theft devices.
Finally, if a person has two or more prior convictions for theft, he or she will be charged, at a minimum, with a state jail felony.
Defenses Against Shoplifting Charges
In any criminal case, where a defendant argues a defense, the prosecutor has the burden of disproving such a defense beyond a reasonable doubt. While shoplifting cases often involve video or eye-witness evidence, several defenses may work in your favor:
Lack of intent
Intent is a key element to the crime of theft. In order for a jury or court to find a person liable for larceny, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the person intended to deprive another of property or merchandise. Depending on the case, the factual circumstances of each case may be on your side. For instance, if a person stepped out of a store with an item momentarily but intended to return immediately to pay for the item, the person lacked the intent to deprive. A skilled attorney can identify and argue important facts to defeat the element of intent, such as forgetting the item was in the person’s possession or simply forgetting to pay.
Shoplifting or theft cases often rely on unreliable evidence such as mistaken eyewitnesses or low-resolution surveillance video. Witnesses often make incorrect identifications, are biased, or outright lie, and surveillance video is often grainy or taken from an angle that does not capture the entire event, making it subject to technical scrutiny. If the police or prosecution offer any of this evidence against you, it should always be closely scrutinized and viewed through a critical lens. A trusted attorney can help to assess whether evidence is unreliable or faulty.
Contact Houston Shoplifting Attorney at the Ceja Law Firm
If you are charged with criminal shoplifting, either as a misdemeanor or a felony, the Ceja Law Firm can give you a better chance of maintaining a conviction-free record. If you have never dealt with the criminal justice system before, or even if you have some experience, we will guide you through the process, letting you know what to expect at each stage. Beyond that, we will fight tirelessly for your rights, with the goal of winning an acquittal or reducing the charges as much as possible. The Ceja Law Firm has helped hundreds of Texans protect their rights against criminal charges. Contact attorney Jose Ceja to discuss your situation today.