You may think that a conviction for shoplifting is no big deal. It may not seem like a big deal now, but a conviction for shoplifting could be a very big deal later on. Having a shoplifting conviction on your permanent record could make it hard to get a job, housing, or a loan.
If you’ve been accused of shoplifting in a store, you may be wondering how long after the incident you could be charged with a crime. Read on to find out.
What Is Shoplifting in Texas?
In Texas, shoplifting occurs when someone takes an item from a retail establishment without paying for it. Shoplifting can take many forms. In addition to the old grab and stash in a pocket/backpack/ purse/jacket, shoplifting can also include:
- Not scanning an item at a self-checkout register
- Altering barcodes or price tags on store items
- Returning a stolen item for cash or store credit
- Conspiring with a store employee to steal store merchandise
How Long After an Incident Can You Be Charged for Shoplifting?
Most shoplifters are detained by security personnel or law enforcement as soon as they leave the premises. However, just because you aren’t apprehended as you leave doesn’t mean you’re scot-free.
Under Texas law, the retailer has up to two years after you allegedly stole the item in which to file charges for misdemeanor shoplifting (5 years for other types of theft). You could find yourself placed under arrest when you least expect it — at home, at school, or at work.
Charges for Shoplifting in Texas
The charges for shoplifting depend on the value of the item or items stolen:
- If the total value is $100 or less, you could be charged with a Class C Misdemeanor and fined up to $500 (no jail time);
- If the total value is more than $100 but less than $750, you could be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor and fined up to $2,000 and receive up to 180 days in jail;
- If the total value is more than $750 but less than $2,500, you could be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor and fined up to $4,000 and receive up to a year in jail;
- If the total value is more than $2,500 but less than $30,000, you could be charged with a State Jail Felony and fined up to $10,000 and receive up to a year in state prison;
- If the total value is more than $30,000 but less than $150,000, you could be charged with a Third Degree Felony and fined up to $10,000 and between 2 to 10 years in state prison;
- If the total value is more than $150,000 but less than $300,000, you could be charged with a Second Degree Felony and fined up to $10,000 and between 2 to 20 years in state prison; or
- If the total value is more than $300,000, you could be charged with a First Degree Felony and fined up to $10,000 and between 5 to 99 years in state prison.
If found guilty, you may also have to make restitution for the stolen property and pay the retailer’s legal fees.
What to Do If You’ve Been Arrested for Shoplifting in Houston
No matter how long it has been since the incident, if you’ve been charged with shoplifting, it’s important to protect your rights. Exercise your right to remain silent — don’t admit to anything. You may be asked to sign some documents — you don’t have to. As soon as you’re able, hire a criminal defense attorney to represent you.
There are many defense strategies when it comes to defending yourself against shoplifting charges, including:
- An accident or mistake — you didn’t mean to take the item
- You paid for the item
- The item already belonged to you
- Mistaken identity — someone else committed the theft
Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to use entrapment or illegal search and seizure as a defense.
Get Help from a Harris County Shoplifting Lawyer Today
The last thing you want is to be haunted by a shoplifting charge. If you’ve been arrested for shoplifting in Houston or Harris County, it’s important to take steps to protect your future.
Lisa Shapiro Strauss is a former county prosecutor turned criminal defense attorney who has helped clients all over the Houston area who have been charged with shoplifting and other kinds of theft. Lisa’s vast legal knowledge and skills often result in lesser charges or even acquittal for her clients.