Based on the value of the merchandise that has been stolen, a shoplifting charge can be handled several different ways. It could result in a mere citation or a misdemeanor charge, but it could also be classified as a felony if the value of stolen goods exceeds a certain amount.
If you were accused of shoplifting, your immediate reaction to the accusation can be crucial to the outcome of the situation. Here are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Stay calm and remember that it may be better to stay silent. Even if you are pressed to give a statement, you have the right to remain silent. Everything you say can be used against you in criminal case. You may request to have a criminal lawyer present who acts on your behalf.
- Store owners and security officers only have the right to detain you if they have probable cause for their accusation. Probable cause is given only if you were caught taking something and concealing it and walking towards the exit or leaving the store with it. In some cases, you may not be arrested and charged until you have left the store premises. The amount of evidence that is required to detain you depends on your jurisdiction. In any case, only reasonable force may be used to detain you. While you may be kept under surveillance until the police arrive, store owners and security officers are not allowed to confine and trap you in a small space. Any violation or use of excessive force is against the law.
- If the store owner of security finds stolen merchandise on you and calls the police, you may be arrested and charged with theft. Again, you have the right to immediate legal counsel and are not required to give a statement.
- In Texas, you can be charged for being an accomplice to a shoplifter, looking out for them or purposefully distracting other shoppers around you. Shoplifting can also include modifying or swapping price tags.
- You may have been mistakenly accused. It could be that you had intended to pay when you walked out of the store and simply forgot. A sincere apology and explanation may help you avoid prosecution; however, an apology can also be used against you as an admission of guilt. It’s best to avoid confusion by speaking with an attorney first.
- All types of shoplifting can result in a criminal penalty. A good shoplifting defense attorney can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case based on the evidence and circumstance at hand. Penalties for first-time convictions are typically less harsh, while in more severe cases, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea deal for you.
- If you were accused of shoplifting, the best thing to do is cooperate politely while you wait for your attorney to arrive. Do not sign anything or admit guilt before speaking with a legal representative. If you have already been accused of or charged with shoplifting and feel like your rights have been violated or you are falsely accused, please seek legal counsel before making any irrational decisions and demanding your rights.
Answers to Your Houston Shoplifting Questions
A prosecutor has a limited time to charge you based on the severity of the crime, which is called a statute of limitations. Evidence can be lost or contaminated, and witnesses’ memories may fade over time, which is why time limits are necessary.
Misdemeanors usually have a two-year statute of limitations. For felonies, the prison term can vary from three to 10 years depending on the crime. Murder and human trafficking have no time limits.
If you post something on social media, it can absolutely be used against you in court.
There is no privacy protection for social media posts. Even if they are marked as private, postings are public, according to the courts. There have been many convictions obtained as a result of mistakes defendants made on social media, including:
– Photos of stolen goods posted on social media
– Bragging about their criminal activity
– Waiving the attorney-client privilege by posting information related to conversations with their lawyer
As a precaution, Lisa Shapiro Strauss recommends avoiding social media completely to avoid saying or posting something you will regret later.
Shoplifting technology can absolutely make mistakes that can lead to unfair arrests. Some common problems include:
– Facial Recognition software uses certain facial characteristics- like head shape, jaw line, and ear shape- that have resulted in many false arrests.
– RFID Technology inserts a trackable chip into valuable items, but sometimes employees forget to take them out when a purchase is made.
– Video Analytic Software is a type of program that works to detect suspicious activity; but it can often be misinterpreted.
Read More About Common Shoplifting Technologies That Can Also Falsely Accuse People of Shoplifting
Get Help With Shoplifting Charges In Houston
Houston shoplifting attorney Lisa Shapiro Strauss has provided exceptional criminal defense representation to Houston and surrounding areas for nearly 20 years. As a former prosecutor, she has unique insight into all aspects of a criminal case and uses that knowledge to get the best possible outcome for her clients.
If you have been accused of shoplifting, call (713) 449-9922 and schedule a free consultation with Lisa Shapiro Strauss today!