What Happens If You Get Caught Shoplifting From Walmart?

If you are caught shoplifting from Walmart in Texas, you may face criminal theft charges.

What does shoplifting mean?

The term “shoplifting” means stealing merchandise from an open retail store. Under Texas law, shoplifting is a type of theft, as defined by Texas Penal Code § 31.03. To simplify its criminal laws, Texas prosecutes most theft-based offenses —including shoplifting, embezzlement, extortion, and receiving stolen property— as theft. 

The theft statute reads: “A person commits an offense if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.” In other words, if you take property that is not yours without permission and don’t intend to give it back, you have committed theft. When you commit theft from a retail store during regular business hours, this is considered shoplifting. 

Does Walmart call the cops for shoplifting?

Although anti-theft practices and policies can vary between stores, Walmart will often call the cops for shoplifting offenses. If you are caught shoplifting from a Walmart, a loss prevention officer may reasonably detain you at the store until the police arrive. 

Walmart has loss prevention officers at every store that watch for shoplifters.  They are on the floor and in the back watching everyone on camera.  A common shoplifting case the loss prevention officers look for is when a person scans some items, but leaves others in the basket and tries to exit the store without paying for those items.  Or a person simply walks by the cash registers without stopping to scan any of their items!  Walmart will prosecute these shoplifters.

Once law enforcement arrives on the scene, you will usually be placed under arrest. However, for lower-level offenses, the responding officer may just issue a citation instead of formally placing you under arrest. 

How much do you have to steal from Walmart to go to jail?

Under the Texas theft statute, you can face charges ranging from a Class C misdemeanor to a felony of the first degree. The classification of your offense will depend on the monetary value of the merchandise and if you have a prior criminal record. 

If the value of the stolen merchandise is less than $100 and you have no previous theft convictions on your record, you can only be convicted of a Class C misdemeanor. You cannot receive jail time for a Class C misdemeanor conviction; the maximum punishment is a $500 fine. 

If the value of the merchandise is $100 or more, or if it is less than $100 but you have a previous theft conviction, you could be convicted of a Class B or Class A misdemeanor or a felony and face possible jail time. 

Will Walmart drop shoplifting charges?

While it is possible that Walmart could drop shoplifting charges against you, you shouldn’t count on it. Some Walmarts are notorious for over-zealously pursuing even minor shoplifting charges. However, many first-time shoplifters can get their charges expunged or dismissed through their county’s deferred adjudication and pretrial diversion programs.

Deferred Adjudication

The deferred adjudication program requires you to plead guilty to the theft charge against you, but the court does not enter a conviction. The judge will withhold a finding of guilt and place you on probation for six months to a year.  You may be required to complete community service and undergo drug and alcohol testing and evaluation. If you complete the requirements of the probationary period, you can avoid a theft conviction. You can also submit a petition for non-disclosure, which will seal the record of your charge to everyone but the government and law enforcement.  

Pretrial Diversion

With pretrial diversion, you have to apply and be admitted to the program by the District Attorney. If the DA accepts you to pretrial diversion, you will enter into a contract with a zero-tolerance policy for lawbreaking. The contract may also require you to participate in community service. 

If you complete the pretrial diversion program successfully, the theft charges against you will be dismissed entirely. Then, once two years have passed, you can request that the charges be expunged from your record.  Some DA’s will allow you to apply for immediate expunction of the arrest.  This will completely remove the charges from your criminal history.

Should I get a lawyer for shoplifting?

If you’ve been arrested on shoplifting charges, you should retain a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. A theft conviction can not only result in jail time, but it can also severely limit your employment options and impact your future opportunities. An experienced shoplifting lawyer can help you understand the charges against you and how you can fight them. 

An attorney can also provide invaluable advice on your eligibility for the deferred adjudication or pretrial diversion programs in your county. Since some of these programs have strict deadlines, you should not hesitate to contact a lawyer to discuss your case. If you miss these deadlines, you will miss out on your opportunity to avoid a conviction through pretrial diversion or deferred adjudication.

Have questions? We protect victims like you every day.

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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 Shoplifting

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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