So, you got arrested for shoplifting.
Whether it was a television or a pair of tennis shoes, a shoplifting arrest can be an embarrassing and incriminating stain on your criminal record. For many people, though, a shoplifting arrest is the result of a larger problem.
This, too, can be embarrassing – but did you know that the reason you steal can potentially be used to help defend you against your charges?
In this post, we’re going to go over the common causes of shoplifting, and how these precluding events may be able to help you avoid convictions, jail time, and heavy fees.
What Are the Reasons That Texans Shoplift?
There are probably as many reasons for shoplifting as there are people who shoplift – every situation is different.
That being said, there are a number of general reasons typically given for acts of shoplifting, including:
- Bipolar disorder
- Anxiety and depression
- Substance addictions
- Addiction to stealing
- Cry for help
- Peer pressure
- Lack of knowledge
Let’s highlight a few of these causes and how explaining the reason behind your shoplifting might help your defense.
Kleptomania and Other Impulse Disorders
Calling somebody a “klepto” isn’t just a rude nickname. Kleptomania is a real impulse disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. Quite simply, people with kleptomania cannot resist the urge to steal items.
Kleptomania is not measured by how much the person steals – often, people with kleptomania steal things that do not have a high monetary value or are not necessary to own. They do so because they can’t not steal.
Psychiatric research has also linked kleptomania to other impulse disorders (pyromania, pathological gambling), as well as bipolar disorder, anxiety, and ADHD.
While there is no “cure” for kleptomania, treatments for related disorders, including talk therapy, can help people control their impulses and urge to steal.
How this can help your defense: If you suffer from kleptomania or a related disorder, seek out psychiatric help. Judges who see that you are treating the root cause of your theft may be willing to drop your charges – or at least mitigate your sentence.
Substance Addiction and Poverty
There are over 30 million people living in poverty in the United States. Sadly, many people may resort to stealing because it is the only way that they can feed their family or afford their rent.
Unfortunately, not everyone is stealing to afford food or basic shelter. Studies show that 17% of people in state prisons were put in jail for committing a crime in order to afford drugs. Drug and alcohol addictions come with high costs outside the price of constantly buying the substance.
How this can help your defense: It can be embarrassing to admit that you were stealing in order to make your rent or buy drugs. However, when you reveal this as the cause of shoplifting, judges may be inclined to help (rather than punish) you.
Lifting your family out of poverty is difficult even in the best of circumstances. If you also have to deal with fines and jail time, it can be next to impossible.
If you are able to receive a sentence involving drug counseling and rehabilitation rather than incarceration and fines, it can help to prevent you from committing criminal acts in the future.
Talk to a skilled Texas defense lawyer about how you can testify to these root causes and how that might help your defense.
Misunderstanding or Lack of Knowledge
Texas’s definition of “shoplifting” goes beyond picking something up and walking out of a store without paying for it. The following acts could also lead to a shoplifting or theft charge:
- Intentionally manufacturing, selling, or distributing a “shielding or deactivation instrument” with the intention of using the instrument to commit theft
- Obtaining an item that was previously stolen (with the knowledge that the item was stolen)
- Selling an item that was previously stolen (with the knowledge that the item was stolen)
How this can help your defense: If prosecutors cannot prove that you had the intention to steal the property in question, you cannot be found guilty of theft. If they cannot prove that you knowingly committed theft or purchased an item that was previously stolen, you cannot be found guilty. Prosecutors must use “the uncorroborated testimony of the accomplice” to establish knowledge or intention.
Say, for example, that you buy a car from a dealership at a young age. The transaction goes smoothly…until law enforcement officials pull you over and tell you that the car you are driving is a stolen vehicle.
You may still be arrested and charged with theft, but if the judge sees that you did not intentionally buy a vehicle with the knowledge that it was stolen, you will walk free.
Finding an effective way to fight your charges is incredibly important, because penalties for shoplifting range from hundreds of dollars in fines to years behind bars. (Penalties are suggested by Texas law based on the value of the stolen items and the defendant’s criminal record.) Do not let a simple shoplifting charge put you behind bars. Create a strong defense strategy that will help you walk away from court with the minimum possible consequences.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.