Houston Shoplifting Attorney
Texas law enforcement takes shoplifting seriously – even if the offender is a minor with an otherwise clean record. One moment of bad judgment or giving in to peer pressure can mean a criminal conviction, fines, and community service hours. Even accidental shoplifting (unintentionally forgetting to pay for merchandise or services) or retail theft can have legal consequences. If you or someone you know recently received a shoplifting charge in Houston, you need a competent Houston shoplifting attorney that specializes in these cases. You need David A. Breston, Attorney at Law.
Why Hire a Houston Shoplifting Defense Attorney?
A skilled shoplifting defense lawyer can strive to minimize charges through pre-trial negotiations, helping to reduce the impact of the situation on the teen or adult. We’ve represented dozens of shoplifting and petty theft cases in juvenile and adult courts in Houston. We know how to help clients maximize the odds of a positive resolution. It is especially important to retain a competent attorney if your teen is on trial for shoplifting. The juvenile system aims to educate child criminals more than punish them, but your child could still face serious consequences.
Juvenile detention is one such consequence for petty theft in Texas. The judge may order the minor to work in a detention program or youth service program. In some cases, the juvenile may be required to go to a full-time juvenile detention center or home. The courts consider many factors when deciding whether this sentence is appropriate for the crime. Juveniles have the same legal rights as adults – including the right to an attorney. Retaining experienced, aggressive shoplifting defense attorneys is the best way to protect your child’s rights in a shoplifting situation.
Receiving a shoplifting charge in Houston, Texas is not the same as a criminal conviction. There is still time to retain a shoplifting attorney, lower the charges, and minimize the punishment. The right Houston shoplifting defense attorney will help you understand your rights as a juvenile or a parent, and take the necessary steps to improve your situation as much as possible. David Breston has decades of defense experience in Houston, and wants to hear about your case.
Shoplifting FAQs and Resources
- Houston Shoplifting Laws
- Civil Penalties For Shoplifting in Texas
- Civil Recovery For Theft in Texas
- How much is bail for shoplifting in Texas?
Houston Shoplifting Laws and Penalties
Shoplifting by taking an item out of the store, or even changing the price on a product to a lower amount, is punishable with fines and even jail time, depending on the value of the item. The store owners also have the right to ban the offender for a certain period of time or for life. In the juvenile court system, those charged with theft may face fines, restitution, mandatory counseling, probation, or detention. Here are the potential sentences for shoplifting in Texas:
- Value of item less than $50: Class C misdemeanor. Punishable with a $500 fine.
- Value of item $50 to $499: Class B misdemeanor. Punishable with up to $2,000 in fines and 180 days in jail.
- Value of item $500 to $1,499: Class A misdemeanor. Punishable with up to $4,000 in fines and one year in jail.
- Value of item $1,500 to $19,999: Felony. Punishable with up to $10,000 in fines and two years in jail.
The juvenile court system has more sentencing options for shoplifting. Depending on the value of the item, the nature of the crime, and other elements, the courts could order the juvenile to pay a fine, pay damages to victims, attend counseling for an underlying issue (i.e., drug and alcohol counseling, anger management, behavioral counseling), or be placed on probation. A minor on probation must obey specific rules, such as staying away from certain places and people. Breaking probation can lead to additional sentencing.
Civil Penalties for Retail Theft
When a person shoplifts or commits retail theft, Texas law allows the shop owner to file civil charges against the shoplifter. The Texas Theft Liability Act allows shop owners to sue shoplifters in civil claims court for the actual value of the stolen property plus $1,000 in damages and reasonable 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 stolen goods plus $5,000 in damages.
It’s fairly common for large retailers like Target, Walmart, and other large department stores to automatically file criminal and civil charges against shoplifters. While the shoplifter may be more concerned about criminal penalties, it is very important for the shoplifter not to ignore a demand letter for civil damages.
Civil Recovery for Shoplifting
If a retailer issues a demand for civil damages to a shoplifter and the shoplifter does not respond appropriately or within a reasonable time, the court will likely issue a default judgment in favor of the retailer. A default judgment can sometimes impact the shoplifter’s title for real property and impact a credit score. However, it’s important to note that it often not cost-effective for large companies to pursue multiple small claims for relatively small amounts – it’s more effective to simply issue demand letters for payment and wait to see who actually pays. Some shoplifters may decide to ignore these demand letters, hoping the retailer won’t bother to pursue the matter further, but this is very risky. A $50 stolen item could lead to thousands of dollars in legal penalties, fees, and other costs.
Retailers will also have the option of banning a shoplifter from the store or other stores in a larger chain, possibly for life. Additionally, a criminal record for shoplifting can make it very difficult to secure certain types of employment. For example, a retail store owner may not look favorably on an applicant with a criminal record for shoplifting and see the applicant as a potential liability.
Bail for Shoplifting in Texas
When the police arrest a person for shoplifting in Texas, the suspect will remain in police custody until a bail bond hearing. During this hearing, the judge will set a bail amount for the suspect. If he or she can pay this amount, then the suspect is free to go until his or her court date. A suspect can post bail by paying the full amount of bail required by the judge, signing over personal property that meets the required amount of bail, or posting a bail bond for the required amount.
Failure to appear for a court date after using a bail bond can lead to significant expenses. The amount paid for the bond is nonrefundable and the suspect is still responsible for paying the remaining bail amount.
Texas judges generally set bail amounts that reflect the severity of the offense in question. Shoplifting does not sound like a serious crime, so the bail amount should logically be relatively low. However, this is not the case as a judge may refer to prior convictions for similar behavior as reason to set higher bail amounts. For example, a shoplifter with a record of several previous convictions faces another conviction for stealing $50 worth of merchandise for the store. Because of the shoplifter’s record, the judge may set a very high bail amount to reflect the fact that the shoplifter is a repeat offender.
It’s crucial for anyone charged with shoplifting to retain a Houston defense attorney as soon as possible. A good attorney can help a charged suspect determine his or her best options for handling bail and civil penalties for shoplifting. Some people charged with shoplifting, especially minors, may qualify for diversionary programs or juvenile record expungement under certain conditions.