Theft (Shoplifting)

Brian Foley is a theft (shoplifting) and criminal defense lawyer representing people in the Woodlands, Texas, Conroe, and Houston Texas.  As a chief prosecutor Brian handled thousands of theft (shoplifting) charges.  You can put Brian's experience in your corner when you are charged with Theft in Montgomery, or Harris County, Texas. 

What is theft? 

Theft is a catch all offense that basically amount to stealing.  There used to be different offenses called Larceny, Larceny by trick, embezzlement, and others.  Now these offenses are consolidated under chapter 31 of the Texas Penal Code.  

 

What are the elements of theft?

In order for a prosecutor to convict someone of theft they have to prove that "A person . . . unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property."

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

 

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.

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

What if I didn't leave the store? 

Typically places like Wal-Mart, Target, or other retail stores require that a person pass all points of sale (meaning the cash register area) without making an attempt to pay for items before they stop someone and call the Police.  However the law does not actually require this.  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.  The problem that prosecutors have is that it is difficult to prove someone's intent.  You have to look at their actions to determine they had the intent to steal.  Now if you grab something off the shelf and say I can't wait to run out of here and steal this TV then you may have made it easier on the prosecutor.  This doesn't typically happen.  What is most likely is that a person conceals an item or fails to scan an item at a self-checkout line and then is stopped by an employee who works for Wal-Mart or another store and they are detained by that person in an Asset Protection office until a real police office arrives to arrest the person.  

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

Texas has what is known as the "Shopkeeper's Privilege."  The civil practice and remedies code Sec. 124.001 outlines the privilege. 

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.

This means that asset protection workers at a retail store may detain a person that they believe has committed theft.  They do so regularly.  What if you try to run away or use force against the asset protection person in an attempt to get away from the store and avoid being prosecuted?  The district attorney could end up charging you with robbery of you used force to escape with property.  This could be as simple as pushing an asset protection officer away from you while trying to run.  This is a really bad idea and takes a case that is quite easy to handle, (a class B misdemeanor) and turns it into an extremely difficult 2nd Degree felony.  

What is the punishment for a Theft (Shoplifting)?

A Theft (Shoplifting) charge is a class B Misdemeanor and has a maximum punishment of 180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine.   

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AGGRESSIVE THEFT CHARGE DEFENSE
FORMER CHIEF PROSECUTOR
Serving The Woodlands, Texas