Shoplifting is the most commonly charged theft offense by far. Every day in Texas many men and women are accused of shoplifting in retail establishments with many of them being innocent. Shoplifting costs retailers an average of fifty billion dollars ($50,000,000,000.00) per year which has lead to aggressive theft prevention measures by retailers which results in thousands of innocent people being charged on an annual basis.

Per Texas law, a person can be charged with retail theft if they knowingly take property from a store with the intent of depriving the owner of value or their property without their consent. In essence, stealing an item meant for sale, without paying for it. The crime also applies to changing price tags or the packaging of merchandise and even returning stolen goods for a cash refund.

Austin Shoplifting Lawyer | Travis County, TX

When a shoplifting charge is challenged, experienced criminal defense lawyers know that in most cases the only effort needed to spur a case dismissal is a challenge to the charge. Regardless of how petty the theft may seem, fighting a theft charge is worth it.

If you have been arrested for shoplifting and need a capable criminal defense attorney to fight for you, contact [firm]. Attorney Gorski has defended numerous people of shoplifting and can utilize his resources, knowledge, and past practice for your case.

Call [phone] to schedule a free consultation today. The Law Office of Jackson F. Gorski has offices in Austin and Georgetown, TX.

Back to top

Information Center

Back to top


Suppose a man enters a clothing store at the mall, takes several items into the fitting room, and puts a shirt on under his shirt. Returning the other things to the rack, the man exits the store, still wearing the shirt underneath his clothes. In this example, the man has shoplifted from a store, committing theft.

Suppose a woman lifts several cans of beans from a grocery store shelf, quickly stashing them in her bag. She intentionally leaves the store without paying. The woman has shoplifted and perpetrated a theft.

Shoplifting entails taking something from a store without paying for it. As shoplifting is a type of theft, the State can charge individuals who commit shoplifting with theft under Texas Penal Code Section 31.03. Section 31.03 states that a person commits theft by unlawfully appropriating property with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of the property. The statute provides three instances where the appropriation of property is unlawful.

  • First, appropriation of property is illegal if the individual took it without the owner’s consent
  • Second, taking is also unlawful if the actor receives known stolen property
  • Finally, appropriating property is also criminal if a law enforcement agency had the property and explicitly represented that someone had stolen the property, and yet, the actor took the property despite thinking someone had stolen it.

The crime of shoplifting falls under the first type of unlawful appropriation. When people shoplift, they take goods from a store without the owner’s consent, intending to deprive the rightful owner, the store, of the property.

Back to top

Shoplifting Compared To Robbery

As a form of theft, shoplifting is distinct from robbery. People who rob stores use force or threaten violence. Conversely, people who shoplift from stores take property without violence or threats and perpetrate theft, a less severe crime than robbery. People tend to be secretive and act covertly when shoplifting, for instance, quickly slipping an item into a bag or pocket. In contrast, people act violently and threateningly to others when conducting a robbery.

Suppose a person enters a jewelry store wearing a ski mask and holding a gun. The person orders the employees to hand over the jewelry. In this case, the individual has not merely shoplifted but has robbed the store. When the State charges the perpetrator with robbery, the perpetrator faces more severe charges than an ordinary shoplifter would encounter and, if convicted, will get a harsher sentence.

Back to top

Shoplifting Penalties

The penalty for shoplifting depends on the value of the stolen goods. A person who lifts a jar of peanut butter from a supermarket will face less severe penalties than someone who shoplifts items from a jewelry or electronics store, where the value of the goods tends to be higher.

In Texas, shoplifting is a Class C misdemeanor if the value of the stolen property is less than $100 and the act was the defendant’s first theft offense. Per Section 12.23. of the Texas Penal Code, the penalty for a Class C misdemeanor is a fine of up to $500.

Shoplifting becomes a Class B misdemeanor, a more severe crime than a Class C misdemeanor, when the value of the stolen property is between $100 and $750 or when the defendant has a record of at least one previous theft crime. According to Section 12.22. of the Texas Penal Code, the punishment for a Class B misdemeanor can be:

  • A fine of up to $2,000
  • Up to 180 days in jail
  • Fine plus jail time

When the value of the stolen property is between $750 and $2,500, shoplifting is a Class A misdemeanor, a more severe offense than a Class B misdemeanor. Under Section 12.21. of the Texas Penal Code, the penalty for a Class A misdemeanor is:

  • A fine not exceeding $4,000
  • Up to one-year confinement in jail
  • Both the fine and the jail time.

Shoplifting rises to a state jail felony in several instances. First, when the stolen property is between $2,500 and $30,000, shoplifting is a state jail felony. When a person shoplifts something precious, like diamond jewelry, the person can face state jail felony theft charges in Texas. In rare instances where people shoplift firearms, they can also face state jail felony charges. Shoplifting goods valued at less than $2,500 also constitutes a state jail felony when the perpetrator has a record of two or more theft crimes. Further, shoplifting goods of aluminum, bronze, copper, or brass valued at less than $20,000 is also a state jail felony. As per Section 12.35. of the Texas Penal Code, the punishment for a state jail felony is between 180 days and two years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

When the stolen property is between $30,000 and $150,000, the crime is a third-degree felony. Section 12.34. of the Texas Penal Code‘s penalty for a third-degree felony is between two and ten years in prison. The court can also issue a fine of up to $10,000. Shoplifting will rarely rise to this severity, as few ordinary material goods carry such great value. However, in rare instances, an individual could lift an item of exceptionally high value.

Theft is a second-degree felony if the property is valued between $150,000 and $300,000 and a first-degree penalty if the property is valued over $300,000. Per Texas Penal Code Section 12.33., the penalty for a first-degree felony is twenty years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. According to Section 12.32. of the Texas Penal Code, the punishment for a first-degree felony is at least five years to life in prison. The court can also fine the defendant up to $10,000.

Theft offenses increase to the next higher category in some instances. For instance, a Class C misdemeanor can rise to a Class B misdemeanor.

For the charge to rise to the next highest category, the prosecutor must establish that the actor intentionally, intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly performed any of the following:

  • The defendant caused a fire exit alarm to sound or otherwise become activated
  • The alleged perpetrator deactivated a fire exit alarm or retail theft detector
  • The defendant used a shielding or deactivation instrument to stop or attempt to disable the retailer theft detector

Back to top

Additional Resources

The Shoplifting Problem – The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention has compiled relevant data and statistics for the crime of shoplifting. This resource shows such statistics and offers information on classes used in the criminal justice systems of many states.

Texas Penal Code: Section 31.03 – Section 31.03 of the Texas Penal Code establishes the crime of theft, which encompasses shoplifting. It also lists the penalties for shoplifting, which depend on the value of the stolen goods.

Back to top

Georgetown Shoplifting Attorney | Williamson County, TX

With the ferocious nature of loss prevention employees at certain department stores and the billions of dollars lost by retailers every year as a result of shoplifting, many people are arrested and accused of retail theft on a regular basis in Austin. Obviously, not everyone accused of shoplifting is guilty and of the ones that are, many of them aren’t convictable so long as they have legal representation.

If you have been charged with shoplifting, contact [firm] to obtain skilled legal counsel. Defense attorney Jackson F. Gorski has defended numerous people of kidnapping charges throughout the state of TX and can do the same for you.

Law Office of Jackson F. Gorski has offices in Austin and Georgetown but accepts clients throughout Texas including Travis County, Williamson County, Bell County, Bastrop County, Burnett County, Hays County, Caldwell County, Blanco County, Lee County, Milam County, Hays County, and Caldwell County. Call [phone] to arrange a free consultation today.

Back to top