What to Do If You Are Accused of Shoplifting in Texas


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Brett Pritchard Law

Updated on August 23, 2022

Being accused of shoplifting can be a terrible and frightening experience—after all, you are facing a legal charge that you need to take seriously. In Texas, the charge of shoplifting comes with some hefty penalties and fines.

However, it is important to recognize that false accusations are not uncommon. Most store clerks simply do not have the experience to make such assessments accurately, and it can lead to false accusations.

Whatever the situation you find yourself in, remain calm and remember that whoever is accusing you is trying to do his or her job. Keep your cool, and remember that you have rights you can invoke if the accusation is not dropped. If a store accuses you of shoplifting, it is deeply offensive, but try to maintain your dignity as you move forward through the experience.

It is also important to work with a Killeen criminal defense lawyer to help you build a strong defense against the shoplifting accusations. If you have been accused of shoplifting, contact a lawyer right away.

Shoplifting Defined

In Texas, shoplifting is covered by the umbrella of theft charges. Theft is the act of taking someone else’s property without that person’s permission and with the intention of depriving the person of his or her own property. Shoplifting can come in a variety of forms, including the following actions:

  • Taking merchandise out of a store without paying for it

  • Swapping price tags to avoid paying the full retail price for merchandise

  • Writing a bad check to pay for your merchandise

The definition of shoplifting is actually quite broad. While being accused of shoplifting can throw you for a loop, it’s important to remain as calm as you can to ensure that you ultimately invoke your rights in the matter.

Texas Shoplifting Charges

In the State of Texas, shoplifting is charged as theft, and the level of the charge and attendant penalties are based upon the value of the items allegedly taken, the nature of the alleged offense, and whether the person accused has a prior record of theft.

Understand the Classes of Shoplifting Charges

The values of stolen items and attendant charges and penalties begin as follows:

Class C Misdemeanor Theft

If you are charged with stealing something that is worth less than $100 in total, it is a Class C misdemeanor that is punishable with up to a $500 fine with no possibility of jail time. This crime is also known as petty theft.

Class B Misdemeanor Theft

If you are charged with stealing something that is worth $100 to $500 in total, or if the property alleged to have been stolen is a driver’s license or another form of official identification, it is a Class B misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and with up to a $2,000 fine. (Learn more about the consequences of a misdemeanor.)

Class A Misdemeanor Theft

If you are charged with stealing something that is worth $500 to $1,500 in total, it is a Class A misdemeanor that is punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and a jail term of up to 1 year.

The charges and penalties go up from there. Further, aggravating factors can increase the severity of the charges brought. These factors can include the presence of tools for removing tags from merchandise and the theft of certain kinds of merchandise—such as firearms.

Prior Convictions Can Affect Your Case

If you have a prior conviction on your record for any class of misdemeanor theft, it can affect your current charges. If you were convicted of misdemeanor theft in the past, Class C charges become Class B charges. If you have two or more convictions of misdemeanor theft, any theft of property or services worth less than $1,500 will be raised to a state jail felony theft charge.

Take Your Charges Seriously

Theft charges are complicated, and a conviction can have serious consequences. A criminal conviction will affect your job opportunities, reputation, student loans, education, housing opportunities, and more. If you have been accused of theft of any kind, it is far too important to leave to chance.

Protect your rights and your future by obtaining the professional legal counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact an attorney today to get the legal representation you need.

The Burden of Proof for Shoplifting

Just because you have been accused of shoplifting does not mean that you are guilty of shoplifting. To confirm that you are guilty of the alleged crime, the prosecution must prove that all of the following events occurred:

  • You were seen approaching the item in question.

  • You handled the item.

  • You concealed or carried away the item.

  • You were watched continuously by store staff from the time you were witnessed approaching the item to the time you left the establishment without paying for it.

  • You did not pay for or attempt to pay for the item.

  • You were approached by a store representative after leaving the store.

  • You intended to conceal or possess an item that is for sale. (Is It Criminal Intent or an Honest Mistake?)

  • You intended to permanently deprive the retailer of the item without paying for it in exchange.

The Retailer’s Rights Related to Shoplifting

If a retailer finds property on you that he or she alleges you stole from the establishment, that retailer has the right to charge you with shoplifting. (Read more about shopkeeper's privilege.) The incident will likely follow a fairly straightforward course that goes something like this:

  • An employee or a store security guard will question you.

  • If the retailer accuses you of shoplifting, he or she may detain you and call the police. (Don't self-incriminate when talking to the police.)

  • If allegedly stolen goods are found on you, the store has the right to bring a shoplifting charge against you, and the police officer at the scene may write you a citation or arrest you as a result.

  • The retailer will likely ask you not to return to the store again.

Arguing is likely to escalate the situation, so it is important to stay composed. Your job is to remain calm and invoke your rights. Reminding yourself that the people involved are doing their jobs to the best of their abilities may help calm you.

Your Rights When Accused of Shoplifting

If you have been charged with shoplifting, it is difficult not to be incensed by the accusation. However, it may help for you to remember that the employees, security guards, and police officers involved are simply doing their jobs. You will be able to refute the charge. By keeping your cool, you will be prepared to make solid decisions as you move forward in the process.

If the person who accused you simply made a mistake and you can support this fact with a receipt or other evidence, present your evidence and explain the situation. If the retailer will not drop the accusation, invoke your rights, which include the following:

  • You have the right to see any evidence the retailer has against you.

  • You have the right to remain silent (your only obligation is to identify yourself to the police if they become involved).

  • You have the right to legal representation at any time throughout the process, and you are well-advised to avail yourself of this right. The sooner you request a criminal defense attorney, the better off you will be.

Your Strongest Defense against Shoplifting Charges

If a shoplifting charge has been levied against you, it is critical that you bring your strongest defense. While your best defense will be unique to your exact situation, there are some basic defense strategies that commonly apply. Contact a criminal defense lawyer to discuss which strategy will be most effective in your case.

It Was an Honest Mistake

Our lives are incredibly busy, and all that rushing can lead to mistakes. No one—not even the judge in your case—has gotten this far without at least almost leaving a store without paying for something. You are not invulnerable to this same foible, and the store, the judge, and the prosecution know this to be true. Honest mistakes that can lead to shoplifting charges include all of the following circumstances:

  • A cashier who fails to charge you but puts the item in your bag anyway

  • An item left in the cart during checkout and, therefore, never scanned

  • Throwing an item in your bag as you reach for your ringing phone

  • Distractedly carrying an item out of the store prior to paying

We have all been there, and if you simply made an honest mistake, it is time to tell your story.

You Already Paid for the Item

If you are leaving a store when the alarm goes off, it is by no means proof that you are in the process of shoplifting. If you purchased the item in question and have the receipt on you, now is the time to dig it out.

Often, the alarm is due to the cashier forgetting to remove the security tag appropriately. Further, if you went through the line thoroughly intending to pay for the item in question, but the cashier failed to charge you correctly, you committed no crime.

You Already Own the Item

If the item in question is your own property, your defense is ready-made. You may, however, have to prove that you entered the store with the troublesome object. Such situations are often related to jewelry, clothing, shoes, or bags that were purchased prior to the current visit.

Someone Else Shoplifted the Item

Some shoplifting charges are cases of mistaken identity. Even if an employee or security guard finds an item from the store in your bag, it is not proof that you put it there.

If You Have Been Charged with Shoplifting, Consult with an Experienced Killeen Criminal Lawyer Today

Being charged with shoplifting is both humiliating and offensive, but experienced criminal attorney Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is committed to helping you move past this experience. You have rights, and Mr. Pritchard has the experience, dedication, and skill to protect them.

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 today.

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