Shoplifting and Retail Theft Defense in Texas.

Shoplifting is on the rise in Texas. This is causing stores to lose money. And it is lowering their profit margins. As a result, stores are cracking down on shoplifters.

They are adding more security guards and cameras. And they are also locking down merchandise and products. But most important of all, stores are going after shoplifters in court. The end result is that police are arresting more people for shoplifting in Texas.

This raises an important question–what happens if you shoplift in Texas? Our post will answer this question. We will also show you how the shoplifting laws work in Texas. And finally, we will cover the penalties for retail theft.

What is the shoplifting law in Texas?

Tex. Penal CodeShoplifting Law in Texas.
Tex. Pen. Code § 31.03(a)A person commits an offense if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.
Tex. Pen. Code § 31.03(b)(1)Appropriation of property is unlawful if it is without the owner's effective consent.
Tex. Pen. Code § 6.03(a)A person acts intentionally, or with intent, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to a result of his conduct when it is his conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result.

What happens if you shoplift in Texas?

Shoplifting is a simple theft crime. This means if a security guard sees you taking items from a store without paying, then police may arrest you for theft. A review of the theft law listed above will show us how shoplifting and retail theft cases work.

Notably, retail theft cases raise four key questions. They are:

  1. Did the shopper intend to steal? Or was it a mistake or accident?;
  2. What did the shopper do to take the property?;
  3. Did the store owner give the shopper permission to take the items?; and
  4. How much do the stolen goods cost?

These four questions will help decide if the shopper is guilty or innocent of a theft crime. But surprisingly, many shoplifting crimes turn on the intent of the shopper.

To explain, in many cases there is usually no dispute the shopper took the item or property. This is because security guards will stop a shopper leaving the store if he did not pay. And most stores do not allow shoppers to leave without paying. So the question becomes, why did the shopper not pay for the items?

If the shopper did this on purpose, then it is a classic case of shoplifting. But if it was an honest mistake or accident, then he does not have the intent to steal. That is to say, the intent element protects innocent shoppers from an honest mistake of forgetting to pay. Therefore, he is not a shoplifter.

But what happens if the shopper is guilty of retail theft? Then the amount of the stolen goods will determine how much jail time he may get.

What are the penalties for shoplifting in Texas?

Offense LevelValue of Stolen Property.Jail Time.Fine Range.
Class C Misdemeanor.Less than $100.00None.$0.00 to $500.00
Class B Misdemeanor.$100.00 or more but less than $750.00Up to 180 days in jail.$0.00 to $2,000.00
Class A Misdemeanor.$750.00 or more but less than $2,500.00Up to one year jail.$0.00 to $4,000.00.
State-Jail Felony.$2,500.00 or more but less than $30,000.00180 days to two years in state jail.$0.00 to $10,000.00.

The table above shows that the value of the stolen property is tied directly to the punishment range of a theft crime. This means the penalty will depend on what and how much you stole? If you stole less than $100.00 worth of property, then you will not face any jail time. Nevertheless, a judge can fine you up to $500.00.

In contrast if you stole more than $100.00 worth of property, then your penalty may include jail time. However, most first-time shoplifters will likely get probation. This is true if they have a clean record.

How much can you steal before it becomes a felony in Texas?

If you shoplift $2,500.00 or more worth of property in Texas, then it becomes a state-jail felony. This usually happens when people steal cellphones, cameras, or computers from from an electronics store with a high dollar value. In sum, if you steal smart phones, iMacs, or high-end cameras, then police may arrest you for felony shoplifting in Texas if the total price of the items is worth $2,500.00 or more.

Retail Theft Defense in Texas.

Circumstances alter cases. This is true for theft crimes in Texas. This means if police arrest you for shoplifting, then you need to carefully review the surveillance videos from the store of the incident. However, these videos may raise more questions than answers.

For some, it will be proof positive that they did not intend to steal. For others, it may be the smoking gun that shows the shoplifting crime. Or more interestingly, the video and other evidence may be unclear about what really happened. If that is the case, then the choice between fighting or pleading guilty to a shoplifting crime becomes more fascinating.

Attorney Genaro R. Cortez.

Phone: 210-733-7575