Shoplifting is the theft of merchandise from a business premise. It is one of the “offenses against property” detailed in Title 7 of the Texas Penal Code and, more specifically, a theft offense consolidated under Section 31.03 of the Code.
Theft offenses are classified according to the value of the property taken and, like most crimes in Texas, come with a statute of limitations attached.
This means that to secure a conviction for shoplifting, the prosecution must file their case against the accused within a certain timeframe of the alleged crime taking place.
A statute of limitations applies to all crimes in Texas except the most serious, such as murder, manslaughter, sexual assault, aggravated assault, offenses against young children, and human trafficking.
Generally speaking, the more serious the crime, the longer the statute of limitations.
Statute of limitations for shoplifting in Texas
When a statute of limitations applies to a particular crime, the associated criminal charges must be filed within the period specified or they cannot generally be filed at all.
These limitations are in place because evidence tends to deteriorate over time. Therefore, as time goes by, it is generally less reliable in securing convictions.
The clock starts ticking on the statute for theft crimes from the date the crime was allegedly committed. The shoplifting statute of limitations is generally set at two years. The same applies to all theft crimes when the value of the property stolen is less than $1,500. Such crimes are generally prosecuted as misdemeanors in Texas.
However, if the value of the property stolen was over $1,500, it can be regarded as a felony theft crime, with a statute of limitations set at five years. This is rare in shoplifting cases but it can happen.
Normally, in shoplifting cases, the customer is stopped upon leaving the store without paying for the items. This action may be taken by the store owner or a security guard. The police arrive and the suspect is taken into custody, charged, and the formal process begins whereby the criminal charges pass through the Texas criminal justice system. The statute of limitations is, therefore, rarely an issue for the prosecution.
When a person is charged with shoplifting after a delay, the statute of limitation may be suspended under certain circumstances, including:
- Any time that the suspect spent out of Texas
- The time during the pendency of an indictment
What penalties are associated with shoplifting?
Shoplifting is viewed by many as a “minor” crime but, in Texas, the penalties are severe and can have far-reaching effects.
Being arrested for shoplifting should never be taken lightly as it is broadly classified the same as any other theft crime.
“a person commits theft if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of that property.”
Any shoplifting crime can include jail time but the more you steal the higher the likelihood of facing significant time behind bars, as well as a larger fine.
General shoplifting penalties in Texas
- If the value of the property is less than $100: a Class C misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500
- If the value of the property is $100-$750: a Class B misdemeanor with up to 180 days in jail and fines up to $2,000
- If the value of the property is $750-$2,500: a Class A misdemeanor with up to one year in jail and fines up to $4,000
- If the value of the property is $2,500-$30,000: a state jail felony with a potential 180 days to two years in a state penitentiary and fines up to $10,000
- If the value of the property is $30,000-$150,000: a third-degree felony with a potential 2-10 years in jail and fines up to $10,000
- If the value of the property is $150,000-$300,000: a second-degree felony with a potential 2-20 years in jail and fines up to $10,000
- If the value of the property is more than $300,000: a first-degree felony with a potential 5-99 years in jail and fines up to $10,000
In addition to the criminal penalties, adult shoplifters may have to answer a lawsuit from the retailer from whom they stole for actual damages and additional damages up to $1,000.
If a minor child shoplifts, the child may be charged with the crime of theft in juvenile court and the parents could be sued for actual damages up to $5,000.
These are the immediate penalties associated with a conviction but there are other far-reaching effects associated with the criminal record you will also receive.
Should you hire an attorney for a minor shoplifting charge?
If a person is caught “red-handed” and charged with a shoplifting misdemeanor, it can be tempting to think that he or she should just accept the charge and conviction, pay the fine, and move on. This fails to consider the long-term effects of the criminal record attached to that person’s name.
A criminal record can create problems with future employment. Theft crimes are crimes of dishonesty, which is never viewed in a good light by employers.
Potential employers are likely to run background checks and if they discover that you have been arrested and convicted of a theft crime, this counts against you. Present employers may even dismiss a person with a criminal record.
You may also be excluded from some licensed professions like attorneys, doctors, real estate agents, and so on. License applications may be refused on the grounds of a criminal record as you may not pass the character and fitness evaluation.
A criminal record can also lead to problems with immigration status, housing, travel and insurance.
Even if the weight of evidence is against you, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can limit the consequences for your future and sometimes get the case dismissed altogether.
Need help with a shoplifting charge in Texas?
If you have been arrested and charged with shoplifting in Texas, do not take any chances as your freedoms could be at risk.
At the Law Office of Andrew Williams, we know how to protect your rights and reduce the potential consequences of the charge. Schedule a free consultation or call us at 281-915-4053. Phones are answered 24/7.