Shoplifting occurs whenever someone takes a good or service from a retail establishment without consent or paying the proper price. As a “wobbler” theft crime, prosecutors can charge shoplifting as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the circumstances of the alleged crime.
You may think you know what shoplifting looks like, and you’re probably right. We offered an abbreviated version of the legal definition of shoplifting above, after all. Within that definition, though, there are a few different ways the law can interpret shoplifting.
1. Taking an Item Without Paying
Simply leaving a retail establishment without paying for an item in your possession is the most common why shoplifting occurs. People may attempt to leave with an item hidden in a bag or on their person, or they may even hide it in another item that they did purchase. No matter how an item is concealed, and whether or not it is concealed, those caught doing this while attempting to leave may be charged with shoplifting.
2. Consuming an Item or Service Without Paying
Shoplifting can also include leaving somewhere without paying for a service performed or consuming an item without paying for it. For example, getting a haircut and leaving the establishment without paying for that service can be considered shoplifting. So too can consuming food at a grocery store without paying for it or skipping out of the check (“dine and dash”) at a restaurant.
3. Changing an Item’s Price
You might think that as long as you pay for an item it’s not shoplifting, right? After all, pricing errors at stores happen, and many retail establishments will honor an incorrectly labeled price if it’s not too far below the item’s intended price.
The difference is that this is an error. When a consumer intentionally changes the price of an item to a lower value, this can be considered shoplifting. It can be harder to do at a retail store that uses barcodes to store pricing information, so this might be more common at retail establishments that mark prices on stickers or the items themselves (bookstores, antique stores, dollar stores, kiosks, and mom and pop shops).
4. Writing a Bad Check
Knowingly writing a check that will bounce is a crime of its own, but doing it to “pay” for an item or service can be considered shoplifting. This means someone who writes a bad check for a product or service may face more than one criminal charge.
Shoplifting Penalties in Texas
We previously mentioned that prosecutors may charge shoplifting as either a misdemeanor or felony. Generally speaking, shoplifting is charged as a felony when $1,500 or more in value is allegedly taken by the defendant. Not only can those convicted of shoplifting face time in jail or prison, but they can be subjected to large fines and court-ordered restitution to repay their victims.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
If you are accused of shoplifting, take it seriously. That means hiring a criminal defense attorney to help you protect your rights during an investigation and if you’re arrested. If you are already in police custody for an alleged shoplifting offense, don’t say anything except to demand legal counsel.
If you need help, our experienced attorney at The Law Office of Rene A. Flores PLLC can assist you. With many years of criminal defense experience that includes defending those accused of theft crimes, we can help you defend against your charges.
For more information, contact us online now.