Can I go to Prison for Shoplifting?
Aug. 24, 2021
YES! In Texas, criminal penalties for theft range from a $500 fine to life in prison. Shoplifting, or theft from a retailer, can have similar outcomes. Shoplifting may seem like a minor offense, but it can have serious consequences. Since it can have serious outcomes, it is important to have an experienced and knowledgeable attorney on your side.
WHAT IS SHOPLIFTING?
In Texas, shoplifting is not the formal name for a crime. Instead, shoplifting is considered a type of theft. If you are caught shoplifting in Texas, you will be charged with theft under Texas Penal Code Section §31.03. A person commits theft if he/she unlawfully appropriates property with the intent to deprive the owner of property. Typically, we think of shoplifting as a crime where a person enters a store like Wal-Mart or Best Buy, takes an item off of the shelf, and leaves the store with the item without paying. However, it is important to know that you can also face theft charges for shoplifting if you:
Act as a lookout or help a shoplifter commit the crime,
Remove or replace price tags to purchase the merchandise for a lower price,
Switch the packaging of merchandise to purchase the merchandise for a lower price,
Fail to scan all merchandise at a self-checkout register, or
Return stolen items for cash or store credit.
WHAT ARE THE CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR THEFT?
In most cases, the value of the alleged stolen merchandise determines the offense level and penalty. As the value of the alleged stolen merchandise increases, so does the level of the offense and the penalty. However, you should know the penalty for shoplifting can also be increased if you have any prior theft convictions.
VALUE OF STOLEN MERCHANDISE
Class C Misdemeanor
Up to $500 fine
$100 to $750
value is less than $100 AND the defendant has a prior theft conviction
Class B Misdemeanor
Up to 180 days in Jail
Up to $2,000 fine
$750 to $2,500
Class A Misdemeanor
Up to 1 year in Jail
Up to $4,000 fine
$2,500 to $30,000
value is less than $2,500 AND the defendant has two or more prior theft convictions
State Jail Felony
180 days to 2 years in State Jail
Up to $10,000 fine
$30,000 to $150,000
3rd Degree Felony
2 to 10 years in Prison
AND a fine of up to $10,000
$150,000 to $300,000
2nd Degree Felony
2 to 20 years in Prison
AND a fine of up to $10,000
More than $300,000
1st Degree Felony
5 to 99 years
or life in Prison
AND a fine of up to $10,000
ARE THERE CIVIL PENALTIES FOR THEFT IN TEXAS?
Yes! In addition to facing criminal prosecution for theft, you may also face a civil suit. In Texas, the victim of a theft—typically the store owner in a shoplifting case—can bring a civil lawsuit against you to recover any actual damages caused by the theft, a civil penalty of $1000 or less, and legal fees and costs.
ADDITIONAL EFFECTS OF A THEFT CONVICTION
Shoplifting may seem like a minor offense, but it can have major consequences because theft is considered a crime of "moral turpitude." "Moral turpitude" is a legal phrase used to describe acts that go against community standards of honesty and good morals such as theft, fraud, and rape. A conviction for a crime of moral turpitude not only damages your reputation, but it can also hinder your ability to find employment, as employers are hesitant to hire someone who has a history of dishonesty or immoral behavior. A conviction for a crime of moral turpitude can also be grounds for the state or federal government to deny or revoke any professional licenses in the following areas of employment and occupation:
AC & Refrigeration
Code Enforcement Officers
Dyslexia Therapists and Practitioners
Driver Education and Safety
Hearing Aid Fitters and Dispensers
Laser Hair Removal
Licensed Animal Breeders
Mold Remediators & Assessors
Motor Fuel Metering & Quality
Orthotists and Prosthetics
Polygraph Examiners & Trainees
Professional Employer Organizations
Property Tax Consultants
Property Tax Professional
Speech Pathologists & Audiologists
Tow Truck Operators & Permit Holders
Used Automotive Parts Recyclers and Employees
Vehicle Storage Facility Owners and Employees, and
Water Well Pump Installer
In addition to criminal penalties, civil penalties, and employment hardships, a conviction for a crime of moral turpitude can negatively impact your immigration status. If you are an immigrant convicted of a crime of moral turpitude, you can be deported or denied legal entry back into the United States. Essentially, a theft conviction for shoplifting can result in deportation, exclusion from admission into the country, or denial of naturalization.
Credibility as a Witness:
Finally, a conviction for a crime of moral turpitude can affect your credibility as a witness in a legal proceeding. For example, imagine your friend is on trial for committing a crime. Your friend, who is innocent, asks you to testify on his/her behalf and you agree to do so. At the trial, you testify truthfully. To your dismay, the Prosecutor questions you about your prior theft conviction and implies that you’re a lying liar who can’t be trusted because of it. As a result, the jury doesn’t believe anything you say and your friend is convicted.
As outrageous as the example may seem, the Prosecutor’s actions were legal because a conviction for a crime of moral turpitude can be used against you to undermine your credibility as a witness anytime you choose to testify in a legal proceeding.
GET HELP TODAY
Shoplifting is a serious offense with very real consequences that can affect you, your family, and your livelihood. Do not let this matter go unattended. Reach out today to set up a free consultation about your shoplifting case. At Collin County Law Group, we are dedicated trial lawyers ready to help you with your criminal defense needs. Contact a theft lawyer at the Collin Count Law Group today.