Shoplifting is one of the most common offenses in Sugarland and Richmond. Under Texas law, shoplifting is charged as theft. The level of offense (and potential penalty) is determined by the value of the merchandise alleged to have been stolen. In Fort Bend County, most shoplifting offenses are charged as misdemeanors. However, even if only charged as a misdemeanor, a theft conviction as a result of a shoplifting arrest can still have disastrous consequences to a person’s criminal history. If you have been arrested for shoplifting anywhere in the Fort Bend County area, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney.
How are shoplifting cases charged?
As noted above, shoplifting is classified as theft under Texas law. Under Texas Penal Code 31.03, the offense level is determined by the value of the items a person is alleged to have stolen.
- Class “C” misdemeanor – the value of the property is less than $100.
- Class “B” misdemeanor – the value of the property is $100 or more but less than $750.
- Class “A” misdemeanor — the value of the property is $750 or more but less than $2500.
- State Jail Felony – the value of the property is $2500 or more but less than $30,000.
Most shoplifting cases filed in Fort Bend County are charged as Class “C” or Class “B” misdemeanors. It is very rare for a shoplifting case to be filed as a felony as most shoplifting cases involve relatively inexpensive merchandise stolen from a large store or supermarket (most theft cases that are charged as felonies involve the theft of more valuable items or the theft of money).
What can I expect after being arrested for shoplifting in Fort Bend County?
If you are arrested for shoplifting in Fort Bend County, you will either be cited and released (this is more common if you are charged with shoplifting under $100) or booked into the Fort Bend County jail and released after posting a bond. You will then be given a court date, which you must attend. The first court date will not determine how your case will be resolved. The first court date in a shoplifting case is typically an opportunity for the judge to review your bond conditions and set future court dates.
In order to properly defend a shoplifting case, your criminal defense attorney will need to obtain the evidence of the case. In most shoplifting cases, the evidence consists of police reports, body cameras and surveillance video.
How are shoplifting cases defended?
Once the evidence in a shoplifting case has been obtained by your criminal defense attorney, he can determine the best way to fight the case. An effective shoplifting attorney should first challenge the facts of the case. Under the laws of the United States and Texas, it is the burden of the prosecutors to establish every element of a shoplifting case. In some cases, evidence of an intent to shoplift may be missing and it may be possible to get a case dismissed due to the fact that a person took an item from a store mistakenly.
If it appears that prosecutors can establish the elements of a shoplifting case, then a shoplifting defense attorney should attempt to negotiate a dismissal of the case. Many prosecutors are sympathetic to the fact that many people who are arrested for shoplifting are deserving of a second-chance to keep a shoplifting arrest off of their record and are sometimes willing to allow defendants to have their cases dismissed if they complete certain requirements. In fact, the Fort Bend County, the District Attorney’s Office has a special program for first-time offenders that results in the dismissal of a theft charge.
For many reasons, it may be preferable to have a theft case dismissed due to a problem with the evidence, rather than the completion of a program. An experienced shoplifting defense attorney to guide you on the best resolution of your case.
How can I keep a shoplifting arrest off of my record?
The best way to protect your record and put a shoplifting arrest behind you is to obtain an expunction of the case. If your case is dismissed, or if you are acquitted at trial, you are eligible to have your shoplifting case expunged (you may also be eligible for an expunction of a shoplifting case if you successfully completed a deferred adjudication probation for a Class “C” shoplifting case). An expunction is considered to be the best result in a shoplifting case as it results in records of your arrest being destroyed. Additionally, once your case is expunged, you are legally permitted to deny the existence of the arrest in most cases (such as a school, job or housing application), and a record of the arrest will not appear on most criminal history searches.
Being arrested for shoplifting can feel like a hopeless and embarrassing situation, but the reality is it is possible to clear your name and put the incident in the past. If you have been arrested for shoplifting in Sugarland, Richmond or anywhere in the Greater Houston area, call Ceja Law Firm today for a free consultation.