I Never Even Left The Store With Merchandise. How Can They Charge Me With Theft?
When you are charged with theft, what the prosecution has to prove is that you deprived the store of merchandise with intent to permanently deprive them of it. The point at which that matter is the last point of sale. If you didn’t get out of the store but you got past the checkout counters, that’s the point at which the store will stop you and tell you that they have sufficient proof to show that you intended to permanently deprive them of the merchandise without having to pay for it. Even if you aren’t arrested outside the outer doors of the retail store you were arrested at, if you got past the last point of sale, it is sufficient proof that you committed the offense of theft or shoplifting. Specifically, Texas Penal Code § 31.02 defines the offense of theft as follows:
(a) A person commits an offense if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.
(b) Appropriation of property is unlawful if:
(1) it is without the owner’s effective consent;
(2) the property is stolen and the actor appropriates the property knowing it was stolen by another
The statute goes on to list other ways that an appropriation of property can be deemed unlawful, but the basic proposition is that if the conduct can be proven to fit the statute listed above, you may be charged with theft.
It Seems Cheaper To Pay A Fine And Not Contest The Charge Rather Than Hiring a Lawyer. Won’t a Lawyer End Up Costing Me More In The End?
The type of theft charge that just has a fine associated with it is Class C theft, which would be a theft charge with no prior convictions, where the amount of property that was taken was under $100. A Class C offense is a ticket offense and not the type of offense for which you are constitutionally entitled to have a court-appointed attorney. The only way you are going to have an attorney on a case like that is if you hire one yourself, and I typically recommend that you do. If you just pay the fine, you will have a theft conviction on your record branding you as a thief for life. If you were ever to be charged with theft again, even Theft <$100, having that prior conviction for it makes it an automatic Class B misdemeanor, which is something where you could serve up to 180 days in jail and be given a $2,000 fine.
All of the other problems that are associated with having a theft conviction come with a Class C theft conviction as well, including difficulties in getting employment, housing, and, if you are ever called to testify in a case, that theft charge will be brought up to show that you are not trustworthy. For the rest of your life, if you are the victim of a crime and you go into court to testify to it, that conviction can be brought up and you will be made more vulnerable as a result of having that theft conviction on your record. It is true that the maximum amount of a fine on a Class C theft is $500 and you should expect to spend more than that on an attorney. However, down the road, the total cost to you of having a theft conviction on your record is much higher than the cost of what you will spend on an attorney.
For more information on Shoplifting/Theft Offenses In Texas, a free case evaluation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (512) 478-9898 today.
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