Being arrested and convicted for shoplifting in Houston or Harris County could have a major impact on your life. You could be ordered to serve jail time and/or pay hefty fines. A conviction will remain permanently on your public record, making it hard for you to get a job, attend the school you want to, or qualify for housing.
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You could also find yourself facing civil actions, in addition to the criminal charges. Texas state law allows businesses to take civil actions against a person apprehended for shoplifting on their property.
Texas businesses can sue shoplifters in civil claims court not just for the actual value of the property stolen (even if it was recovered), but also up to $1,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees. If the shoplifter is a minor under the age of 18, the shop can sue the shoplifter’s parents for the actual value of the property that was stolen, plus up to $5,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees.
What is a Civil Demand Letter for Shoplifting?
One of the most common forms of civil action taken by Houston area businesses against someone charged with shoplifting on their property is to send them what’s called a Civil Demand Letter.
A Civil Demand Letter is sent out by the lawyer or firm representing the business against whom the crime was committed. It orders the person charged with shoplifting to pay a certain sum of money to cover the losses and damages a business suffered as a result of the crime.
The sum is usually far greater than the value of the property that was stolen. It can include the retail cost of the item(s) stolen — even if the items were recovered, undamaged — as well as expenses for lawyers, administrative costs and any extra security measures the business put in place as a result of the crime. These letters state that if payment is not made within a certain number of days, then the business will file suit against them in civil court.
Receiving a Civil Demand Letter can be intimidating. But what happens if you don’t send them the money?
In many instances, no action will be taken, especially in cases where the theft involved an item of minor value. Most businesses send out civil demand letters because they don’t cost much to write or send. Taking a shoplifter to court usually isn’t worth the time or money it would cost a business.
If you’ve received a Civil Demand Letter for shoplifting in Houston, show it to an attorney and let them advise you what the best course of action would be.
Frequently Asked Questions About Shoplifting Charges
Texas law states that a retailer can claim that an item was intended to be stolen if the item was hidden in a backpack or concealed in a way that is evident it was hidden.
It’s common for employees and security guards to wait for a suspected shoplifter to leave the store before approaching them because it’s easier to prove theft if the person leaves. However, the person doesn’t have to leave to prove intent to shoplift.
There is a statute of limitations- or a limit on how long a prosecutor has to charge you- which varies based on the crime’s severity. Time limits are necessary because evidence can be lost or contaminated, and witnesses’ memories may fade with time.
A misdemeanor usually has a two-year time limit. The time limits for felonies vary from three years for crimes like assault to 10 years for crimes like sexual assault and arson. There are no time limits for murder and human trafficking.
The short answer is that practically anything you post on social media can be used against you in court.
Your social media information is not protected by privacy rights. Courts have ruled that postings are public, even if they are marked as private. Many convictions have been obtained due to mistakes defendants made on social media, including:
– People posting photos of stolen merchandise
– Bragging about their crime
– Posting information related to conversations with their lawyer regarding the case, thereby waiving attorney-client privilege
In order to avoid the risk of saying or posting something you’ll regret later, Lisa Shapiro Strauss recommends staying off social media completely, if possible.
Have You Been Arrested for Shoplifting in Houston?
Lisa Shapiro Strauss is a former DA turned criminal defense attorney who has helped many clients in Houston and surrounding communities who have been charged with shoplifting and other crimes. Her unique background gives her insight into how the prosecutors think and how to prepare an effective defense against the charges against you. In many cases, Lisa’s representation has resulted in reduced charges and even acquittal for her clients.
No matter what crime you’ve been charged with, always remember that you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. Houston shoplifting defense attorney Lisa Shapiro Strauss is here to protect your rights to ensure you get a fair trial. If you’ve been charged with shoplifting in Houston and have received a Civil Demand Letter, call the offices of Lisa Shapiro Strauss to discuss your case.