Facing a Shoplifting Charge in Fort Worth?
Have you, a friend or a loved one been arrested and charged with shoplifting in Tarrant County, Texas? If so, it is critical that you know your legal rights and options available to you to fight your shoplifting case! It is critical that you do not take a plea deal that leads to a theft conviction. An experienced and aggressive Fort Worth theft attorney may be able to resolve your case in a manner that prevents a conviction and allows you to get the theft arrest and charge to be cleared from your criminal record.
Is There A Difference Between Shoplifting And Theft?
No! Shoplifting is a type of theft crime that involves intentionally or knowingly taking from a retail store by either taking property from the store without the owner’s consent or attempting to take the items from the store without intending to pay for the items. Shoplifting has the same criminal elements of theft under Texas criminal law. As such, the State of Texas must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused intentionally or knowingly took property of another with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. Failure to prove each element of shoplifting beyond a reasonable doubt will result in a not guilty verdict at a jury trial.
As it is with all theft cases, whether your shoplifting case is charged as a misdemeanor, or a felony will depend upon the value of the items stolen. Let’s examine what Texas law requires for a shoplifting to be filed as a felony or misdemeanor:
Misdemeanor Shoplifting Cases
For a shoplifting case to be filed as a misdemeanor in Texas, the value of the items alleged to have been stolen must equal less than $2,500. The range of punishment for a misdemeanor shoplifting case is broken down as follows:
- Shoplifting under $100 – Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by a fine only of up to $500. No jail time on Class C Misdemeanors.
- Shoplifting $100 – $750 – Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in the Tarrant County jail and up to a fine of $2,000.
- Shoplifting $750 – $2,500 – Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in the Tarrant County jail and up to a fine of $4,000.
Some people make the mistake of believing that a misdemeanor shoplifting case may not be that serious. However, a misdemeanor shoplifting can have dire consequences on your criminal record and employment prospects if you are convicted. In fact, many employers see a shoplifting conviction as serious as a felony conviction. Shoplifting and other theft charges are crimes of dishonesty, and many potential employers will immediately exclude you from consideration if they see a theft arrest or shoplifting conviction. Therefore, you cannot hire just any Fort Worth shoplifting lawyer to resolve your case. You need an attorney with a history of proven results on shoplifting cases in Tarrant County, Texas.
For example, it is common for an experienced and aggressive Fort Worth shoplifting attorney to get a shoplifting case dismissed by one of the following methods:
- Shoplifting dismissed for lack of evidence – if the prosecutor is unable to prove every element of the crime of shoplifting, your criminal attorney may be able to negotiate a dismissal of the case for lack of evidence. This puts a premium on hiring a criminal attorney that will review your evidence and identify the weaknesses of the case and use them for leverage for a possible dismissal.
- Shoplifting conditional dismissal – the best shoplifting attorneys may be able to negotiate a conditional dismissal of your shoplifting case. Here is how it works. In exchange for a dismissal of all charges, you may be asked to complete a theft class and/or community service. This option gives the prosecutor something to include in their file while providing you the benefit of a dismissal and eligibility for an expunction of all criminal records.
- Shoplifting reduced to a lesser charge – depending upon the circumstances of your shoplifting case, your criminal defense attorney may be able to persuade the prosecutor to reduce your Class A or B misdemeanor shoplifting case to a Class C Misdemeanor citation. Why is this helpful? Because resolving your shoplifting case as a Class C Misdemeanor deferred probation would provide you the opportunity to file a petition for expunction to destroy your shoplifting arrest and charges from your criminal record.
- Pretrial Diversion Programs – if you are a first-time shoplifting offender, you may be eligible for a pretrial diversion program that would provide you the benefit of having your shoplifting case dismissed in exchange for staying out of trouble and completing minimal conditions of the diversion program. For example, in Tarrant County, the Deferred Prosecution Program (DPP) provides you an opportunity to have your shoplifting case dismissed if you stay out of trouble for four months and mail in your forms and fees in accordance with the program. The major benefit of this option is that you are eligible for an immediate expunction and are not required to wait the normal two-year statute of limitations period. You should work with your shoplifting attorney to make sure you are eligible for a pretrial diversion program in the county you are charged.
Felony Shoplifting Cases
If you have been arrested for a felony shoplifting case in Tarrant County, Texas, the police believe you have stolen items valued over $2,500. The range of punishment for felony shoplifting cases are broken down as follows:
- Shoplifting $2,500 – $30,000 – State Jail Felony crime, punishable by a minimum of 180 days up to 2 years in a State Jail facility and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Shoplifting $30,000 – $150,000 – third degree felony crime, punishable by a minimum of 2 years in prison and up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
- Shoplifting $150,000 – $300,00 – second degree felony crime, punishable by a minimum of 2 years in prison and up to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
- Shoplifting $300,000 or more – first degree felony crime, punishable by a minimum of 5 years in prison and up to life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Generally, a shoplifting case will be filed as a misdemeanor when the value of the property taken was less than $1,500. Misdemeanor shoplifting charges carry with them the possibility of up to 1 year in the Tarrant County jail and up to $4,000 in fines. If the property stolen exceeds $1,500 in value, you could be looking at a felony shoplifting charge that exposes you to a minimum of 180 days in a Texas State jail facility and up to $10,000 in fines.
Although many think of the crime of shoplifting as a minor infraction, it is important to recognize that if you are charged with shoplifting, you are in a dangerous situation. Whether charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, shoplifting is a serious criminal charge that carries devastating long-term consequences. In addition to jail time and fines, a shoplifting conviction may permanently limit your ability to obtain gainful employment. Under Texas law, shoplifting and many other theft crimes are considered crimes of moral turpitude. A conviction for a crime against moral turpitude could result in limited employment opportunities, the deportation of an alien, and could result in your honesty and good name being held in question for the remainder of your life.
Facing a felony shoplifting case is unique in that all felony shoplifting cases must be presented to a grand jury. A grand jury is a panel of citizens with the responsibility of determining if a case has probable cause to continue through the court system. The grand jury works much like a water filter. The purpose of a water filter is to push the good water through the filter and keep the bad ingredients out. The grand jury is designed to filter out the bad shoplifting cases and allow the “good” cases to continue through the felony court system. What is considered a “bad” case? Below, you will find a list of shoplifting defenses that are commonly employed to get a shoplifting case dismissed. The best shoplifting attorneys in Fort Worth, Texas know that a case must be thoroughly analyzed and determined if a legal defense is available to dispose of your case. Remember, a grand jury can keep your case a felony shoplifting, reduce it to a lesser misdemeanor shoplifting charge or no bill your case – the equivalent of a dismissal.
If you, a friend or a loved one is facing a shoplifting charge in Texas, it is critical to know and understand the legal defenses available to you to fight your charge. Here are a few criminal defenses to consider:
Value of Stolen Items
Can the State of Texas prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the value of the allegedly stolen items add up to the amount alleged for your charge? If not, your shoplifting attorney may be able to get your charge reduced to a lesser crime. For example, if the store is claiming you stole $105 in items, but your shoplifting attorney can determine the true value was under $100, your Class B misdemeanor shoplifting charge could be reduced to a Class C citation. This is a big deal – your case goes from a maximum sentence of 180 days in the Tarrant County jail down to a fine only of up to $500. The same holds true if the value of the items is allegedly $2,700 but your attorney can provide a receipt or estimate that the items were valued at less than $2,500. Creating reasonable doubt as to the value of the items provides your shoplifting attorney an opportunity to get your felony shoplifting case lowered to a lesser misdemeanor shoplifting charge.
No Criminal Intent To Commit Shoplifting
Not only must the State of Texas prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the value of the items fits your charge, but they must also prove that you acted intentionally or knowingly. In other words, it must not be a mistake or accident.
One of the best examples of this situation is when someone places many items in their shopping cart and approaches self-checkout and pays for all the items except for one or two items at the bottom of the cart. Loss prevention officers arrive and accuse them of committing shoplifting, despite the fact they paid for all the other items. Is it possible that this was a mistake or accident? Of course, it is! Unfortunately, many loss prevention officers, and police officers immediately assume the worst about people and look to arrest anyone for any situation. It makes no sense to have the money to pay for all the items in your shopping cart but refuse to pay for the item at the bottom of the cart. A reasonable person on a jury would be able to see that it was just as likely a mistake when considering an explanation for the behavior.
If you, a friend, or a family member has been charged with shoplifting do not make the mistake of representing yourself or placing your future in the hands of a shoplifting lawyer that lacks the track record of success when defending theft cases in Tarrant County, Texas.
The Hampton Law Firm is a team of 5 Former Prosecutors working tirelessly to protect the rights of citizens in Fort Worth, Texas. We have over 80 years of criminal law experience and over 500 criminal jury trials. We would be happy to provide you a free case analysis and consultation to determine a custom defense strategy to give you the best opportunity to get your shoplifting case dismissed.
Contact The Hampton Law Firm now to ensure that you have an aggressive criminal lawyer protecting your good name and future employment opportunities.