What Is the Difference Between Shoplifting and Theft?

Many Collin County, Texas, residents have been arrested and charged with shoplifting. If you have been accused of stealing or “lifting” merchandise from a local retailer, do not assume it is a misunderstanding that will be quickly resolved. Shoplifting is a serious criminal charge and a conviction can have significant consequences on your life and freedom.

Defining Shoplifting

Retail theft has been a major problem for centuries. In 1699, responding to complaints from London merchants, the Parliament of England passed one of the first laws specifically targeting shoplifting. English justice was quite strict: Anyone caught taking more than five shillings worth of merchandise—about 80 cents in modern U.S. dollars—was subject to death by hanging.

Fortunately, modern shoplifting laws in places like Collin County are nowhere near that serious. In fact, shoplifting is not a specifically defined offense under the Texas penal code. Rather it is simply considered a form of “theft.” The degree of the theft offense is determined by the value of the property allegedly taken.

At the lowest level, for example, theft of property valued at less than $100 is classified as a Class C Misdemeanor. This carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine but no jail time. The offense is elevated to a Class B Misdemeanor if the shoplifted property is worth between $100 and $750. The difference between a Class B and Class C Misdemeanor is important, because the former not only carries a significantly larger maximum fine– $2,000 as opposed to $500– -but also a potential jail term of up to 180 days. Once the value of the allegedly stolen property exceeds $2,500, an accused shoplifter is looking at a state jail felony charge. A conviction here can lead to up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Again, these penalties apply to all forms of theft, not just shoplifting. Shoplifting only refers to theft in the context of a retail store, but it does not matter where a defendant allegedly stole the property. What ultimately matters is the value of the property itself.

A Collin County Theft Attorney Can Help

While a Class C Misdemeanor conviction may not seem like a big deal, especially since there is no risk of jail time, having a theft conviction of any type might affect your ability to get a job. After all, if you were a potential employer and saw a theft conviction on an applicant’s back, would you hire that person? You should also keep in mind that the retailer that accused you of shoplifting can file a civil lawsuit against you separate and apart from any criminal proceeding.

This is why you should speak with a qualified Collin County criminal defense lawyer if you have been accused of shoplifting or any type of criminal theft. The attorneys at Rosenthal & Wadas can advise you on how to deal with any type of theft charge, even a misdemeanor, and ensure your rights are protected.

Posted in Federal Criminal Defense, Theft

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