Theft and Shoplifting

Theft and Shoplifting?

When something -- anything of any value -- is taken from the owner without consent, it's a theft. Although it's not very commonly charged, a theft can even occur if the stolen object is moved, even a little bit. So it's not necessary to actually leave or get away with the stolen item; a person can still be charged with theft, as long as the police/prosecutors believe there is an intent to steal.

Shoplifting is a general term for theft from a business or retail store. The elements of shoplifting are exactly the same as theft; in fact, there is no separate crime of shoplifting in Texas. It is just 'theft'.

Theft offenses in Texas are differentiated based on the amount or value of the items taken. For instance, a book taken from a store, normally for sale at $15.99, would be a Class C Theft, since the total value is less than $100. But if $850 worth of DVDs are stolen, then it becomes a Class A misdemeanor, since the value is between $750-$2,500. Class B Thefts are in between, and anything over $2,500 is a felony.

Prior Theft convictions on your record can be used to enhance a current theft case. This means a case will be charged one degree higher (or more serious) than would be the case without that prior conviction. This is one of the main reasons to try and avoid a final conviction on a theft case (aside from Crime of Moral Turpitude concerns listed below).

Theft offenses are prior-able in the future too, meaning that if you have a conviction on your criminal record, then the next arrest for theft you get will be used to enhance it to a more serious theft. The enhancement increases your offense by one level of severity. For example, if you were arrested for a Class B Theft (Theft of $100-$750 alleged value), then a prior theft could be used to enhance your class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor.

If you have two theft priors, then the third one, usually at arrest, will turn into a felony, regardless of the amount stolen. We've had cases where a person stole a make up, coffee, or a six pack of beer and ended up being charged with a felony, based soley on two prior theft convictions on that person's record.

You can read the specific Statute and Punishments for Theft below.

What You Need To Know

Theft cases at the Misdemeanor level are a little different in Austin, Travis County. It's important to hire a good, local, attorney who knows the ropes here. Travis County offers a great pretrial diversion program tailored to first offenders. The process involves an attorney meeting with the prosecutors, and if they are convinced to give the person a chance in the program, then an application is submitted. There are great benefits to a Theft pretrial diversion -- or a First Offender Theft program. First, it's a guaranteed dismissal of the theft case as long as certain conditions are met. Those conditions are typically class, community service, and an administrative fee. It's important to remember that not all cases or people are accepted into the first offender program. Acceptance into pretrial diversion is based on the particular facts of the case and the person's criminal history.

But it's important to try and get a Theft Case Dismissed. Why? Because Theft is considered a Crime of Moral Turpitude are typically offenses involving traits of dishonestly and lack of trust. Offenses that, if convicted, may portrait the person as being dishonest. Crimes of Moral Turpitude are not set out by statute, but instead have evolved from caselaw and have common-law roots. Crimes of Moral Turpitude include Theft, Forgery, Perjury, and other crimes directly related to a person's integrity. Crimes of Moral Turpitude are among the most commonly reported on criminal history background checks, and are scrutinized by potential employers, colleges, landlords, and law enforcement. This is true even on a Class C Theft -- it's not the level of offense or severity of the facts, but instead the charge itself.

Convictions of Crimes of Moral Turpitude also have devastating effects with personal rights. They may disqualify a person from serving on jury duty, holding public offices, obtaining licensing and clearance in certain fields, traveling into other counties, obtaining loans and mortgages, and more.

Closely Related Offenses

Related areas to Theft include offenses under the umbrella of Theft, such as Burglary of a Vehicle, or Theft by Check (Hot Checks).

If you're looking for other offenses that are related to this one, you can see more information below, or click related legal offenses.

Jail Release and Bond for Theft

Theft arrests will -- if more serious than a Misdemeanor (in Travis County) usually will result in jail -- and a bail bond will be required for release from Jail. An Attorney can help obtain a Personal Bond for Theft by arguing to a Judge for release. This will require hiring the attorney for both the jail release and representation on the case itself; although typically the jail release fee is the deposit for representation.

Sometimes an officer will file an arrest warrant for Theft, which will require a Walkthrough to clear the Arrest Warrant. Doing a Walkthrough quickly is important, because most of the time a person does not go into the jail during the surrender process. Call us for more details if you have an active Travis County Arrest Warrant for Theft.

Keates Law Firm can act quickly to assist with a personal bond to release that person. Be sure to read more about Bond, Personal Bonds, and Travis County Jail Releases.

Defenses for Theft

There are many defenses to theft -- too many to go into detail here. They range from the wrong person, to mistaken ownership, to a sale or purchase of an item that leads to a disagreement. If you'd like to talk in detail about your situation, or if you have questions, contact us for a Free Case Consultation. Keep in mind, Keates Law Firm only practices in Austin and Travis County.

Work with an Experienced Theft Attorney

Hiring the right attorney from the beginning is important. Poor legal decisions will have a negative effect upon the case as it progresses. The Keates Law Firm has over 16+ Years Experience handling Theft cases. Our focus is to try and have the case dismissed against you. We don't even discuss pleas until all legal and negotiation options have been explored in detail.

Call Us to talk about your particular case and situation. It's a 100% Free Phone Consultation with Criminal Defense Attorney Keates. No Sales Pitches, No Hassles. We'll see if we are the right Law Firm for you, and give you a quote. Be sure to check out Keates Law Firm's Reviews and also our past cases and Results.

How We Can Help

Goals vary, depending on a person's charge, criminal history, and other factors, but ideally, the goal should be a reduction of charges, a dismissal, and avoiding jail for any Theft charge. While not every case can be dismissed, often times the goal becomes avoiding jail, or getting a reduced charge, or even getting a favorable probation with a possible dismissal at the end, called Deferred Adjudication. If dismissed, a person can later seek an Expunction of a Criminal Record, which is where a Judge Orders the offense records destroyed, including police reports, court records, and prosecutor files.

Likewise, if Deferred Adjudication is successfully completed, the person can have thier record sealed through Motions for NonDisclosure.

Keates Law Firm has a track record of dismissals for Theft. Most Theft cases result in negotiated dismissals, where there's usually a trade-off of community service and a class in exchange for a dismissal -- but not always. The main hurdle is convincing the prosecutor to agree to dismiss the case, and Keates Law Firm has experience in Austin's Travis County courts doing just that.

As discussed above, another big benefit of a theft pretrial diversion program is the waiver of waiting period for expunction. Normally, a misdemeanor theft case requires two years to pass before an expunction can be filed. The two year waiting period is not two exact calendar years either -- some days do not count, depending on the status of the case and other factors. But if a Theft case is dismissed through a theft pretrial diversion program, the waiting period is waived, allowing for an immediate Expunction at the end of the pretrial diversion program.

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The Law in Texas on Theft

Texas Penal Code Sec. 31.03. THEFT

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

  • (b) Appropriation of property is unlawful if:
    • (1) it is without the owner's effective consent;
    • (2) the property is stolen and the actor appropriates the property knowing it was stolen by another; or

Penalties for Theft in Texas
Value of items stolen Level of Offense Punishment Fines
less than $100 Class C Misdemeanor Not Jailable No more than $500 fines
$100 or more but less than $750 Class B Misdemeanor Not more than 180 days in a county jail and/or no more than $2,000 fines
$750 or more but less than $2,500 Class A Misdemeanor Not more than 1 year in a county jail and/or no more than $4,000 fines
$2,500 or more but less than $30,000 State jail felony 180 days to 2 years in a state jail and/or no more than $10,000 fines

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I go to Jail for Theft of Shoplifting in Austin, Texas?
In Travis County, generally not. First Offense Theft cases are typically Misdemeanors, and have a maximum punishment of 6 months in jail, and/or a fine up to $2,000. Probation is also a possibility, as could be a first offender program or plea bargain to a lesser charge.

Can I get a Theft Case Dismissed in Austin, Texas?
Yes, but it's not automatic. An Attorney can review the case and facts, and negotiate a potential dismissal. Often the trade off might be community service and a theft class. Not all dismissals are equal, however. If possible, it's important to have the case dismissed in a manner that would allow for Expunction later.

Do I need a Lawyer for a Theft or Shoplifting case in Austin, Texas?
Yes. Absolutely. Theft is a serious offense. A theft conviction on your records would cause a severe loss of rights, such as the right to sit on a jury in the future. It would also be red-flagged on background checks, since it's considered a Crime of Moral Turpitude (which is a legal terms for a serious type of offense -- even at the Class C ticket level!

Is Theft in Austin Texas a Misdemeanor or Felony?
Theft offenses in Texas are differentiated based on the amount or value of the items taken. For instance, a book taken from a store, normally for sale at $15.99, would be a Class C Theft, since the total value is less than $100. But if $850 worth of DVDs are stolen, then it becomes a Class A misdemeanor, since the value is between $750-$2,500. Class B Thefts are in between, and anything over $1500 is a felony.

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