How Long After Shoplifting Can You Be Caught?

How Shoplifting Charges are Brought After Leaving a Store

Shoplifting is defined as the theft of merchandise from a business premise. Because the act of shoplifting is not complete until a customer leaves the store without paying for an item, a business often waits until the shoplifter has exited the building before getting involved. The way shoplifting is handled in any specific incident also depends on the way the store conducts business. Another factor that comes into play is the value of the goods that were stolen. If it was a case of “petty theft,” the store might decide not to pursue an investigation because it is simply not worth their time.

Some stores take stock twice daily, and if the numbers do not add up, they will question the staff and check the cameras. At that point, if you are caught shoplifting on camera, an investigation might begin. An investigation typically happens when the loss suffered from the act of shoplifting is greater than the money, resources, and time that would be spent on an investigation.

As you have probably noticed, some stores also have security guards who are specifically trained to handle these situations. They are most often found in bigger stores as well as shopping centers, malls, and stores with high value merchandise like jewelry stores. A security guard has the general authority to detain someone if there is probable cause that shoplifting has occurred. When security stops a shopper, it needs to be done in a reasonable amount of time and in a reasonable manner in order to be considered proper conduct.

How Long Is the Statute of Limitations for Shoplifting?

Texas Penal Code §31.03 addresses theft; it applies to several forms of theft and includes shoplifting. The penalties that can arise from a shoplifting conviction depend on the value of the property in question. The statute of limitations is set at five years in Texas for simple theft and robbery. However, the statute of limitations for misdemeanors is two years, and a shoplifting conviction is usually considered a misdemeanor if the value of the property in question was under $1500. If you are not familiar with the nature of the statute of limitations, the most important thing to know is that it forbids prosecutors from charging someone with a crime that was committed longer than a specific amount of time as set by the limitation. This means that depending on the worth of the property in question, you can be caught and charged with shoplifting two to five years after the crime was committed.

Can A Shoplifting Case Be Dismissed?

If you are being accused of shoplifting, the goal of your defense attorney would be to reduce the consequences of the charge or to show that there is insufficient evidence to make the charge in the first place. Some of the most common defenses for shoplifting are:

  • You did not intend to steal the item. Rather, you made a mistake and forgot you had the item.
  • If you are being accused of assisting someone in shoplifting, a common defense would be that you did not know the person intended to steal. Therefore, you are not to be held accountable for their actions.
  • The item was yours to begin with. This would apply if you were accused of stealing an item that you carried into the store.

The most important factor in a shoplifting case is intent. If the store cannot prove that you acted with intent to steal, you will often be able to win your case. It is also possible to have your case dismissed. To make this happen for you, a criminal defense attorney might file a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the charge was merely a de minimis offense. In order to be considered “de minimis,” an offense must meet the following criteria:

  • There is only one conviction or program entry of record for the offense.
  • The offense was punishable by imprisonment for a term of one year or less and/or a fine of $2500 or less, and the individual served three days or less of jail time.
  • The conviction or program was entered at least five years prior to the date an application would otherwise be required.
  • The offense did not involve an insured depository institution or insured credit union.

If the offense is determined to be “de minimis,” it means that the conduct was too trivial to call for a full trial. Another way you might be able to request a dismissal would be if the employees of the store and security guards do not appear at the hearing. In most cases, when this happens, the judge will adjourn the case, which means to suspend the case until a later time. If the employees fail to show up a second time, it would be more likely for the case to be dismissed. If it is not possible to dismiss the case entirely, another desirable option would be to have the charge reduced. No matter what the specifics of your situation might be, if you are being accused of shoplifting, even if the incident happened years ago, you will want a trusted defense attorney on your side.

Find out what the criminal defense attorneys at The Clark Law Firm can do to defend your case and produce the best possible outcome. Give us a call at (817) 435-4970 or contact us online to schedule a complimentary consultation.


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