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  • Writer's pictureBrian Foley

Do you have to leave the store to be charged with Shoplifting? Can a private company detain you?

One of the most common crimes is theft. Specifically theft from Wal-Mart. Maybe this is because your average Wal-Mart has 3-4 asset protection employees working at any one time and has 300-400 cameras recording your every move. One question I hear frequently is, "If Wal-Mart Employees stop you before you have left the store with products that have not yet been paid for, can they still charge you with theft? Don't you have to leave the store?"

The answer is they probably don't have to let you leave the store before charging you with theft. But they may be under the impression that they do. Technically under the legal theory of "asportation" moving a product a few inches or placing a product in your pocket with the intent to steal is sufficient evidence to prove a theft case. That is all legal theory though. In reality a prosecutor will have to prove to a jury that you really intended to steal the items which is why asset protection employees are typically trained to allow persons they believe are committing theft to pass all points of sale and nearly leave the store.

Theft in Texas is outlined in Chapter 31 of the Penal code.

Sec. 31.03. THEFT. (a) A person commits an offense if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.

A theft case can have lasting consequences and could lead to enhanced punishments for future offenses. Don't try to handle a theft charge on your own. Talk with a defense lawyer if you are facing theft charges.

Another common question I hear is, "Is it legal for Wal-Mart employee's who are not police officers to detain me?" Again the answer is yes. It is called the "shopkeepers privilege" and is found in the Civil Practice and remedies code.

Sec. 124.001.  DETENTION.  A person who reasonably believes that another has stolen or is attempting to steal property is privileged to detain that person in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable time to investigate ownership of the property.
Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 959, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985.

If you need help fighting theft or other charges call Brian Foley Law PLLC today! 936-596-0407


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