Under Texas Penal Code Section 31.03, you could be charged with shoplifting under a wide range of circumstances. While the most obvious form of shoplifting would be carrying an item out of a store without paying for it, there are numerous other situations that could lead to a petty theft charge. Switching price tags, improperly concealing an item, under-ringing an item and fraudulently returning a product all constitute shoplifting. In fact, you don't actually need to leave the store in order to be arrested for shoplifting; it only needs to be proven that you intended to steal the item.
Why was I arrested for shoplifting if my friend did it?
In some cases, you could also be on the hook for shoplifting if it was alleged that you aided another person in the commission of the crime. According to state law, you would be criminally responsible for a theft offense committed by another person if, with the intent to promote or assist the crime, you encouraged, aided or attempted to aid the person who actually committed the shoplifting offense. For this reason, you could find yourself facing theft charges even if you were only the "lookout."
Can I be arrested if I didn't actually steal anything?
In a significant number of shoplifting cases, the offender is arrested even before they had the chance to carry an item out of the store. Although theft did not actually occur, they could still be charged with shoplifting on the basis that they intended to deprive the owner of their property—which, in this case, would be the merchant. If security cameras show that you looked around and then stuffed jewelry into your purse, for example, you could still be arrested for shoplifting even if you haven't left the store.
Could I face jail time if I'm convicted of shoplifting?
If you have been charged with shoplifting—or any other form of petty theft—the penalties you face will ultimately be decided by the value of the item, or items, that you allegedly stole. In some cases, prior theft convictions will also play a role in the severity of the charges that you face for subsequent shoplifting offenses.
Theft of property valued at $50 or less
If you have been accused of stealing property that is valued at $50 or less, you will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. This offense is punishable by a maximum fine of $500. Jail time is not mandatory.
Theft of property valued at $50 to $500
If you have been accused of stealing property that is valued at $500 or less, you will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor—which is punishable by 180 days in jail and $2,000 in fines.
Theft of property valued at $500 to $1,500
If you have been accused of stealing property that is valued at $1,500 or less, you will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor—which is punishable by one year in jail and $4,000 in fines.
Theft of property valued at $1,500 to $20,000
If you have been accused of stealing property that is valued at $20,000 or less, you will be charged with a state jail felony. This offense is punishable by two years in state jail and $10,000 in fines.
Theft of property valued at $20,000 to $100,000
If you have been accused of stealing property that is valued at $100,000 or less, you will be charged with a third degree felony—which is punishable by 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
If you are convicted of shoplifting, you could also be sued by the merchant that you stole from. You may be civilly liable for actual damages, as well as additional damages in an amount up to $1,000. If your child was caught shoplifting, you, as a parent, may also be held civilly liable. You could be sued for actual damages up to $5,000.
Contact My Firm Today for a Free Consultation
If you or someone you love has been arrested for shoplifting in Fort Worth or a surrounding area, you should not hesitate to get in touch with a theft crime lawyer at the Law Office of A. Oliver Hassibi. My firm has been defending criminally accused clients in Texas for more than a decade, so I understand the gravity of your situation. A shoplifting conviction will result in a permanent stain on your criminal record unless you act quickly to retain the help of a defense attorney, so I encourage you to get started now.
Contact my firm today to set up a free initial consultation!