Unfortunately, many assume that taking a small item or a few knick-knacks from stores is insignificant. After all, many stores make millions, so they likely won’t even notice something is missing. However, this is far from the truth. In Texas, shoplifting is taken very seriously and can even result in time spent in jail. It’s also not uncommon to be accused of this crime if the store owner is suspicious of you. As such, if you are accused of this crime, it’s imperative to connect with a Houston theft defense attorney to discuss your legal options. The following blog explores what penalties you can face for this crime and why contacting an attorney is critical.
What Constitutes Shoplifting?
While most people assume shoplifting is just hiding items in bags or pockets, it is generally any time you intentionally steal from a store without paying for it. This includes hiding items on your person, removing security tags to take the item, and manipulating barcodes so the item scans differently. Additionally, stealing shopping carts can also warrant a shoplifting charge.
What Consequences Can I Face?
Unfortunately, many assume that getting caught shoplifting will warrant a slap on the wrist or a ban from the store. However, this is far from the truth, as you can face several penalties.
If you are found and charged with shoplifting in Texas, you can face criminal charges. Generally, this warrants a misdemeanor based on the value of the item stolen. For example, goods valued at $50 or less warrant a Class C charge, $50-$500 increases to a Class B, and anything over $500 is a Class A misdemeanor charge. However, shoplifting items valued at $2,500 or more can result in a felony charge.
If you are charged with a Class B misdemeanor or higher, you can face at least 180 days in jail, but the potential for up to one year. A felony charge will warrant even more jail time. Aside from potential time behind bars, you can also face hefty fines, ranging from $500 to $4,000.
Are There Any Possible Defenses?
Though it may not seem possible, there are ways to beat a shoplifting accusation and charge. Generally, two things must be true for a shoplifting conviction – intent to conceal and to steal. Essentially, if a store manager or owner can prove that you intentionally concealed an item, they may be able to have you charged. However, showing intent to steal is much more challenging, and you may find that working with an experienced attorney can help you navigate the complexities of proving you had no intentions to steal the item.
Additionally, video footage may work in your favor. For example, if you are being charged because you allegedly stole an item, security footage may capture you scanning the bar code. This can illustrate an issue with the store’s self-checkout, helping prove your innocence in the matter.
At the Gonzalez Law Group, we understand how complicated navigating these matters can be, which is why our team is ready to assist. We will explore all possible avenues to fight for the best possible outcome. Contact us today to learn how we can assist you through these complex times.