Five Common Black Friday Crimes
After enjoying Thanksgiving with friends and/or family, people head out to their local stores and malls to take advantage of Black Friday deals. Because of the popularity of the Black Friday sales, some stores open their stores on Thanksgiving Day and/or begin their sales weeks in advance.
While the holiday weekend is known for its sale, discounts, and product releases, Black Friday is also known for being a popular weekend for certain crimes to be perpetrated. Below, we will discuss the five most commoncriminal offenses committed around and during Black Friday as well as the potential penalties for each crime in Texas.
1. Inciting or Participating in a Riot
Black Friday shoppers have been known to incite or participate in riots as they wait for stores to open or rush the doors of a store once they open. Sometimes, riots also begin after a store runs out of stock of certain items after people have waited in long lines. However, starting or participating in a riot can lead to criminal consequences.
Texas Penal Code § 42.02 defines a riot as an assembly of seven or more people that leads to conduct that:
- Presents an immediate danger of property damage or injury to persons
- Obstructs law enforcement or other government in a significant manner
- Deprives a person of a legal right or disturbs a person’s enjoyment of their legal rights via the use of threats of force, force, or physical actions
Under § 42.02, it is illegal to participate in a riot. A violation of this statute is considered a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or jail time for up to 180 days.
2. Check Fraud/Issuance of a Bad Check
Everyone wants to take advantage of Black Friday deals. However, some people may not have the money to afford anything even with the discounts. It is illegal for a person to make a payment via check or a similar sight order if they know that they do not have sufficient funds in their bank account—with respect given to other outstanding payments and checks made (Texas Penal Code § 32.41).
This offense can be considered a Class C, B, or A misdemeanor or even a felony offense depending on the amount the check is written for. We will discuss the breakdown of penalties based on the amount of money involved in the offense in the theft crimes section of this piece.
3. Unlawfully Brandishing a Firearm, Gun, or Weapon
Black Friday shopping can get intense; specifically, things can get violent. Some shoppers may show or carry a weapon as an act of intimidation. However, excluding instances where a handgun is visible while being carried in a holster, a person commits a criminal offense if they carry a handgun and intentionally display it in a public place. It is also illegal to threaten or assault anyone with a weapon.
4. Assault & Battery (& Other Violent Crimes)
As we’ve mentioned, Black Friday can be dangerous, and people can suffer serious injuries or even death. A common cause of injuries to people is violence enacted on them by other people. From stabbing people over parking spaces to assaulting people to get the last item in stock to making violent threats while waiting in line, many violent crimes occur during Black Friday.
Texas Penal Code § 22.01 explains that a person commits an assault if they intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:
- cause another person to suffer bodily injury (including their spouse),
- threaten another person with imminent bodily injury (including their spouse), or
- cause physical contact with another person when they know (or should reasonably believe) that the other person will believe the contact is provocative or offensive.
An assault that causes another person to suffer bodily injury is considered a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and/or a jail term of no more than a year. However, the offense is considered a third-degree felony if it is committed against:
- A public servant who is lawfully performing their duties
- A person who contracts with the government to perform services in a facility (see Texas Penal Code § 1.07)
- A security officer
- A process server
- A pregnant individual
- A person who has a relationship with the accused as outlined in Texas Family Code § 71.00212(b), 71.003, or 71.005
- An emergency services person who is acting out their duties
The offense can also be increased to a third-degree felony if the accused:
- committed the offense while in a civil commitment facility against an officer or employee or a person who contracts with the state at the facility, or
- intentionally or recklessly blocks the victim’s breathing or blood flow by applying pressure to the throat or neck or blocking their airways.
A third-degree felony is punishable by imprisonment for two to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Assault offenses that involve threatening another person or touching someone in a provocative or offensive way are considered Class C misdemeanors, which are punishable by a fine of up to $500. However, these offenses are considered:
- Class A misdemeanor if the offense was committed against an elderly or disabled person or a pregnant person in an attempt to force an abortion
- Class B misdemeanor if the offense was committed by a non-sports participant against a sports participant while the person is engaged in playing a sport or in retaliation for the participant’s performance.
Examples of violent crimes committed on past Black Fridays include:
- In 2020, 2 teens were shot and killed at a mall in Northern California on Black Friday. While the shooting was believed to be targeted, shootings and acts of violence are not uncommon during the Black Friday weekend.
- In 2021, two (or more) burglars committed a heist at an Alabama Best Buy. The burglars cut a hole in the roof of the store and stole computer equipment, most of which were Apple products.
- In 2021, several U.S. cities reported a bout of smash-and-grab robberies on Black Friday that were committed by different organized groups of thieves. In Los Angeles, a group reportedly stole $400 worth of products from Home Depot. Chicago reported that four such robberies, and a Best Buy in Minnesota was robbed by a group of over 20 people in a smash-and-grab scheme.
- In 2020, an Ohio man was arrested and charged with felony assault. Reportedly the man assaulted another man while they stood in line waiting for a store to open on Black Friday. Investigators claim that the assailant hit the other man multiple times and attempt to assault another person after getting into an argument with two about a place in the line.
5. Theft (& Shoplifting)
In Texas, theft offenses include a wide array of crimes, such as shoplifting, larceny, buying stolen goods, and bouncing checks, and theft is defined as unlawfully taking someone else’s property without the owner’s concerns with the intent to deprive the person of their property.
During Black Friday, many different types of theft offenses occur, including smash-and-grab robberies (i.e. a robbery that occurs after a person breaks the window of a window, store, etc., and grabs whatever is easily and quickly accessible), burglaries, and shoplifting incidents.
A real-life example of a theft case that occurred on Black Friday is: In 2015, three suspects committed a jewelry theft at Diva Diamonds & Jewels and stole about $1 million worth of merchandise. Reportedly, while Black Friday shoppers were outside enjoying hot chocolate, caroling, and a look at the holiday lights, the thieves used that distraction to enter the jewelry store and take merchandise from unlocked glass jewelry cases. Investigators claim that video surveillance shows the suspected thieves scoping out the store three weeks before the heist.
It is also important to note that some people are accused of shoplifting during Black Friday because they try to conceal their merchandise. If a person grabs the last item in stock or a coveted item, they sometimes hide the item in their coat or bags to avoid fighting with other customers over the item. However, if someone notices the concealment or the shopper forgets to remove the item at the checkout, they can face shoplifting charges.
Theft charges in Texas are penalized based on the value of the stolen goods or services:
- The theft of goods worth less than $50 is a Class C misdemeanor.
- The theft of goods worth $50-$500 is a Class B misdemeanor.
- The theft of goods worth $500-$1,500 is a Class A misdemeanor.
- The theft of goods worth $1,500-$20,000 is a state jail felony, which is punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine of no more than $10,000.
Get Legal Help
If you or a loved one have been arrested or are under investigation for a crime, The Clark Law Firm can support you throughout the entire legal process. Backed by over three and half decades of legal experience, our attorneys can help ensure the investigators and prosecution honor your legal rights and work to build a solid defense strategy.Our firm handles a variety of criminal defense matters, including:
- Juvenile offenses (i.e vandalism, shoplifting, etc.)
- Violent crimes (i.e. assault and battery, manslaughter,robbery, etc.)
- Theft crimes (i.e. shoplifting, petty theft, grand theft, burglary, auto theft, etc.)