If you have been arrested for shoplifting – known as theft under Texas law – it is critical that you do whatever you can to keep the charge off of your record. A knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney can help guide you through the process of keeping a theft conviction off of your record through tools such as the Retail Theft Diversion Program. Although shoplifting is usually charged as a misdemeanor (unless the amount stolen was over $2500) it can still be worse to have on your record than many felonies. Looking for a job with a theft conviction on your record could be a huge impediment to finding employment, even if you do not have a professional license. Additionally, a theft conviction could affect your ability to obtain credit or to obtain certain types of housing.
Many counties offer pre-trial diversion programs that could keep a theft conviction off of your record. A pre-trial diversion is essentially a contract with the District Attorney’s Office, that states that a case will be dismissed if certain conditions are met. Typically, these conditions can include community service, classes and fines. Because pre-trial diversion programs are set up by a county District Attorney, the availability and conditions of these programs will vary greatly. In Harris County, pre-trial diversion programs are available for most misdemeanors and even some felonies (although those are rare).
One program available to first-time offenders accused of retail theft (aka shoplifting) in Harris County, is the Retail Theft Diversion Program. Depending on the facts of your case, this can be an excellent way to keep a theft conviction off of your record.
The Harris County Retail Theft Diversion program is available to defendants accused of class “B” misdemeanor theft in Harris County. There are several requirements for the program. First, it is open to defendants who have no criminal convictions (class “B” or worse), as adults, and who have not previously completed a pre-trial intervention program. A defendant wishing to apply for the Retail Theft Diversion program cannot have also been charged with another offense at the time of his arrest (like resisting arrest or evading, for example). Employee thefts are generally not eligible and the property alleged to have been stolen must have been recovered.
Typically, the program is 90 days long and requires the completion of a class, the payment of fines, and possibly some community service. However, if the program is completed successfully, your case will be dismissed. Once your case is dismissed, you are eligible to have an expunction, which we highly recommend. An expunction is the best possible result in a case as it destroys any records relating to the arrest. Once the expunction is done, you will even be able to legally deny the existence of the arrest in most instances.
In many cases, we do not recommend applying for a pre-trial diversion program until all of the evidence has been collected. In general, it is much better to obtain a dismissal of a case without the completion of a pre-trial diversion program. This is because a dismissal in a pre-trial diversion case usually depends on the completion of a program. It is usually better to have a dismissal without the completion of a program. Also, completion of a pre-trial intervention program might make you ineligible for a similar program in the future.
However, in many cases, enrolling in, and completing, the Retail Theft Diversion Program might be the best option. Even if you believe you are not eligible for the program, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you find other ways to keep a theft conviction off of your record. Call Ceja Law Firm today for a free consultation.