September 3, 2018
If you are accused of shoplifting, your first reaction may be to get angry and try to leave. Alternatively, if you did take something, you might think that admitting your guilt and apologizing profusely is the best way to get out of trouble. You need to be careful, though, because the wrong move may land you with criminal charges.
Below, we’re going to offer a list of what you should not do after being accused of shoplifting in Texas. No matter what, you have rights – but what you do in the aftermath of an accusation can be the difference between escaping without consequences and being convicted.
You Should: Review Your Rights
Shoplifting is a serious crime, but store owners and employees who detain you unlawfully may also be charged with a crime. If you were detained after an accusation, you should speak to a lawyer and review your rights.
Employees who accuse someone and take action without probable cause may not have a leg to stand on in court, and they may not pursue criminal charges if they find out they were in the wrong.
You Should Not: Contact the Store Owner Without Consulting a Lawyer
Remember your Miranda rights: anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Once you have been accused of a crime, you have to be very careful about what you say regarding the crime.
If you try to handle the situation yourself, especially if you have never been accused of a crime before, you may end up saying something that can be twisted and used against you.
You Should: Know the Charges Against You
Not all shoplifting charges are the same in Texas. Our state determines penalties based on the type of product that was allegedly stolen and its value.
If you are accused of stealing an item that is valued at less than $100, for example, you may only face a Class C misdemeanor and fines of up to $500. However, if that item is a firearm or valued at over $2,500, you may face felony charges.
Felony shoplifting charges could land you in jail for up to two years and have a lifelong effect on your ability to find work or secure government benefits. If you have been convicted of shoplifting before, the penalties are even more harsh.
Know what charges you face and what factors contribute to those charges. If you can prove that the value of the items you allegedly shoplifted was lower than $1,000, for example, you may face reduced charges or penalties.
You Shouldn’t: Go Back to the Store
If the shop owner tells you to stay away from their store, you should listen. Don’t add a trespassing charge or a restraining order to your case. Stay away from the store until after the charges have been dropped or you have gone to court. Again, reaching out to store management will most likely hurt you in court.
You Should: Consider Pretrial Diversion Programs
Depending on which Texas county you live in, you may not have to face jail time for shoplifting. Many counties offer diversion programs for low-level, non-violent crimes. A judge may offer an exchange where you pay restitution or complete community service.
Once the terms have been fulfilled, your charges will be dropped and you won’t face jail time or heavy fines. This option isn’t available for all shoplifting crimes, though, so talk to your lawyer about whether or not you qualify.
You Shouldn’t: Panic
An accusation is not a conviction. A criminal charge is not a conviction. You are innocent until proven guilty, and the charges may be sealed from your permanent record if they are dropped.
There are many defense strategies available for people who have been accused of shoplifting. A lack of evidence, for example, may be the key to getting off without any penalties.
Put your trust in your lawyer and refrain from doing anything rash during criminal proceedings. Strange behavior or additional crimes will only work against you when you head to court. Stay calm.
You Should: Reach Out to a Lawyer
You have the right to legal counsel. Talk to a Texas criminal defense lawyer before you try to represent yourself, gather evidence, or head to court. A lawyer is better equipped to find witnesses, look through evidence, and reach out to anyone who may have been involved in the crime.
About the Author:
The strength of Brian S. Eppes as a lawyer is in his unique and varied background. Like many other private attorneys, at one point he worked as a prosecutor. However, he also served in George W. Bush’s White House, has helped Texas legislators to write laws, and spent time at a tax and estate planning firm. These experiences have enabled him to look at cases in a different way than his peers and find creative solutions that benefit his clients.