The Defendant’s Guide to Shoplifting

In Texas, there is no separate criminal offense called “shoplifting.” Instead, people who steal merchandise from open retail stores are prosecuted on theft charges.

What is the definition of shoplifting?

The term “shoplifting” generally refers to stealing goods from a retail establishment during regular business hours. Under Texas law, shoplifting is considered theft because Texas has consolidated most theft-type offenses, such as shoplifting, embezzlement, extortion, and receiving stolen property, into a single statute. 

Texas Penal Code § 31.03 reads: “A person commits an offense if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.” Essentially, this means that theft is taking someone else’s property without their permission and not intending to return it. 

Texas law also criminalizes the possession, manufacturing, or distribution of shielding or deactivating instruments used for shoplifting under Texas Penal Code § 31.15.

Is shoplifting a felony or misdemeanor?

Shoplifting can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor offense depending on the value and nature of the property stolen and your criminal record.

Class C Misdemeanor

Shoplifting is a Class C misdemeanor if the value of the property stolen is less than $100;

Class B Misdemeanor

Shoplifting is a Class B misdemeanor if either of the following applies:

  • The value of the property stolen is $100 or more, but less than $750.
  • The value of the property stolen is less than $100 and you have a previous theft conviction.

Class A Misdemeanor

Shoplifting is a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the property stolen is $750 or more, but less than $2,500.

State Jail Felony

Shoplifting is a state jail felony if any of the following apply:

  • The value of the property stolen is $2,500 or more but less than $30,000.
  • The property stolen is a firearm.
  • The value of the property stolen is less than $2,500 and you have two or more theft convictions.

Third Degree Felony

Shoplifting is a felony of the third degree if the value of the property stolen is $30,000 or more but less than $150,000.

Second Degree Felony

Shoplifting is a felony of the second degree if the value of the property stolen is $150,000 or more but less than $300,000.

First  Degree Felony

Shoplifting is a felony of the first degree if the value of the property stolen is $300,000 or more.

Will I go to jail for first time shoplifting?

First-time shoplifters are rarely sent to jail for a first offense, but if you have a criminal record or are on probation for another offense, your chances of serving jail time are higher. If you are convicted of Class C misdemeanor shoplifting, a judge cannot sentence you to jail: the maximum penalty you can receive is a $500 fine. However, if you’re convicted of a Class B or Class A misdemeanor or any felony, you could be facing a jail sentence.

Can I get a shoplifting charge expunged or dismissed?

You can get a shoplifting charge expunged or dismissed through deferred adjudication or pretrial diversion if you are a first-time shoplifter charged with a lower-level theft offense. 

Deferred Adjudication

With deferred adjudication, you plead guilty to the theft charge and are given six months to one year of probation. While on probation, you may be required to complete an anti-theft  class or classes, submit to drug and alcohol testing or other evaluation, and complete community service. If you successfully complete your probation under deferred adjudication, you won’t be convicted of theft.  Your case will be dismissed.  You will also be able to file a petition for non-disclosure, which keeps the record of the charge sealed to everyone except the police and other government agencies.

Pretrial Diversion

To qualify for pretrial diversion, you must apply and be accepted to the program by the District Attorney. If the DA agrees that you can participate, you will sign a contract that includes a zero-tolerance policy for illegal activities and may have other requirements depending on your risk level. If you successfully complete pretrial diversion, your shoplifting charges will be dismissed entirely. Two years after the dismissal you can expunge the charges, which will remove the charges from your record.  Most of the time you can file for immediate expunction.  Have your lawyer ask the DA’s office if they will oppose an immediate expunction.

Does shoplifting affect employment?

A shoplifting conviction can have a substantial impact on your ability to obtain employment as many employers perform routine criminal background checks on applicants. While a misdemeanor conviction is not as limiting as having a felony on your record, many employers will reject applicants with any theft conviction on their record. Because theft is considered a crime of moral turpitude, employers often believe they cannot trust someone who has been convicted of shoplifting. Particularly if the job applied for involves handling money or merchandise.

Should I get a lawyer for shoplifting?

It’s essential that you retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible if you have been charged with shoplifting. Even a Class C misdemeanor conviction can have a severe impact on your life.  An experienced shoplifting attorney can review the facts of your case and determine your best defense. They also can advise you on your eligibility for deferred adjudication or pretrial diversion and help you get into the programs. Because some counties have stringent deadlines for these programs, you should contact a shoplifting lawyer as soon as possible.

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Read More

The Guide to Unreasonable Search and Seizure

The Guide to Texas Penal Code 12.44a

The Defendant’s Guide to Probable Cause

How to Get a Petty Theft Misdemeanor Expungement

How to Act When Stopped By Police

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