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  • Brian Foley

The Woodlands, Texas Theft and Shoplifting Attorney

The Woodlands, Texas Theft and Shoplifting Attorney - Brian Foley - Board Certified in Criminal Law

If you've been arrested in The Woodlands, Texas for Theft or Shoplifting then this article will tell you everything you need to know to get your life back on track and help avoid a criminal record.

Theft or Shoplifting? What is the difference? In Texas there is no difference. All offenses that relate to stealing have been combined under a single theft statute.

Theft or Shoplifting? What is the difference? In Texas there is no difference. All offenses that relate to stealing have been combined under a single theft statute.

The Penal Code used to have different offenses like Larceny, Larceny by trick, embezzlement, and other crimes. Under Chapter 31 of the Texas Penal Code these have been combined and detailed into a value ladder which determines the severity of the punishment range.

The elements of a crime are the facts that a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction. For theft "A person . . . unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property." ​ So here are the elements:

1. Unlawfully

2. Appropriates

3. Property

4. With intent to deprive

5. The Owner of the property.

1. "Unlawful" means criminal or tortious or both and includes what would be criminal or tortious but for a defense not amounting to justification or privilege. Translated to English this means that behavior that has a legal defense like self-defense or mistake of fact doesn't count but anything else will fall under unlawful if you meet the other elements of the specific crime.

2. Appropriate means: to acquire or otherwise exercise control over property.

3. Property means: real property, tangible or intangible personal property including anything severed from land, or a document, including money, that represents or embodies anything of value.

4. With intent to deprive means: to withhold property from the owner permanently or for so extended a period of time that a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property is lost to the owner, to restore property only upon payment of reward or other compensation, or to dispose of property in a manner that makes recovery of the property by the owner unlikely.​

5. Owner means: a person with a greater right to possession of the property than the person who is charged with theft. ​

What if I didn't leave the store?

If your case is a shoplifting case from Wal-Mart, Dillard's, or other retail stores then they will generally require that you pass all points of sale (also known as all the cash registers) with the concealed or unpaid for merchandise.

The law does not technically require them to wait this long. The law says that when someone takes something and exercises control over it (meaning they pick it up) and have the intent to steal it then they have committed theft no matter how far they carried the item.

Can a Wal-Mart or store employee detain me until the police arrive?

Yes. In Texas the "Shopkeeper's Privilege" allows an asset protection employee to detain a suspect until police arrive. This is found in Texas' Civil Practice and Remedies code Sec. 124.001.

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. ​

When the Police arrive you may be arrested for a Class C offense or given a ticket if the value of the property was less than $100.

If it is between $100 - $750 then the punishment is for a class B Misdemeanor and has a maximum punishment of 180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine.

Once you have been arrested you will be taken to the Montgomery County Jail and you will see a judge the following morning for them to set your bond and give you a court date. Before you talk with a lawyer you should have your court date, court, and other information given to you by the jail handy so that they can complete a consultation.

What should I tell my lawyer? Your lawyer is the only person that you can completely trust with any information because they have attorney client privilege with you even during a free consultation. You can share with them, criminal history information, personal information, and relevant details about the criminal offense for which you were arrested. This makes it easier to help you. The worst thing that can happen is for your lawyer to be surprised by something they learn when they receive discovery information from the prosecutors.

Talk to an attorney today to see if your case is eligible for dismissal which in turn could allow your case to be expunged entirely from government records. That way you can take back your life!


For litigants who do not have counsel: Reading this blog post does not create an attorney client relationship. Call to set up a free consultation.

For the general public: This Blog/Web Site is for educational purposes only and it provides general information and a general understanding of the law, but does not provide specific legal advice. By using this site, commenting on posts, or sending inquiries through the site or contact email, you confirm that there is no attorney-client relationship created. Don't just read this as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney.

For attorneys: This Blog is informational and educational in nature and is not a substitute for Westlaw or other research and consultation on specific matters pertaining to your clients. As you know the law can change day to day based on recent case opinions. And unfortunately you shouldn't cite it in court as binding authority because it is not. Mention it to your friends, just seek real consultation if its something important.

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