The Definition of Shoplifting and the Consequences of Being Caught

This article mostly applies to the state of Texas since I’ve used the Texas constitution and statutes as reference, but much of this information can apply to other states across the nation.

A general definition of shoplifting is a theft of goods from a retailer. Shoplifting is the act of unlawfully acquiring property with the intent of removing it from the premises and not paying for it.

Theft Defined

Penal Code, Title 7, Offenses Against Property, Chapter 31. Theft, Section 31.01 states “Deprive” means “to withhold property from the owner permanently or for so extended a period of time that a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property is lost to the owner.” This also includes disposing of the property in a way that makes recovery unlikely or impossible. Here’s an example; stealing merchandise, running from the store before apprehension and then discarding of the evidence in a garbage bin.

Even if you aren’t caught with the evidence, you still committed theft. Under Code of Criminal Procedure, Title 1, Chapter 38, Evidence in Criminal Actions, section 38.34 “A photograph of property that a person is alleged to have unlawfully appropriated with the intent to deprive the owner of the property is admissible into evidence under rules of law governing the admissibility of photographs.  The photograph is as admissible in evidence as is the property itself.” This may include store security video.

Section 31.01 states that “Property” is defined as real property, personal property severed from land, money and/or documents that represent anything of value. Shoplifting most commonly consists of store merchandise placed for purchase by customers, but under the Texas definition of property, someone can be charged for shoplifting by stealing money, for example if an employee pockets customer change, or even important company documents.

Methods of Theft

Section 31.02 consolidates theft offenses as “shoplifting, acquisition of property by threat, swindling, swindling by worthless check, embezzlement, extortion, receiving or concealing embezzled property, and receiving or concealing stolen property.”

Shoplifting is commonly thought of as a someone concealing an item somewhere on their person (pockets or under clothing) but according the above statement, theft can also include using stolen credit cards (not explicitly specified) or worthless checks (fake, stolen, insufficient funds, non-existing bank account, etc.) to purchase property as well as threatening store employees if they don’t “give” away merchandise. Concealing property known to have been stolen, even if that person wasn’t the one to steal it, can also constitute theft. Switching price tags would fit into the “swindling” definition.

Penalties and Fines

Section 31.03 states the penalties as follows:

If the stolen property is worth less than $50, or less than $20 and was acquired using a knowingly worthless check or similar manner, the shoplifter will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. If, under these same circumstances, the shoplifter has been previously convicted of any grade of theft, the charge is upgraded to a Class C misdemeanor.

If the property is worth more than $50 but less than $500, or $20 or more and less than $500 and purchased using a worthless check or similar manner, they will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor.

If the property is worth more than $500 but less than $1,500, the shoplifter will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.

If the property is worth more than $1,500 but less than $20,000, or less than $1,500 but the person has a prior conviction of theft, they will be charged with a state jail felony. It’s also a felony if the property is a firearm, despite its worth.

There are further levels of felony, but I’ve chosen not to include them since they begin to reach beyond the typical definition of shoplifting.

Also note that under section 31.15, it is a Class A misdemeanor to possess, manufacture or distribute certain instruments that can be used to commit retail theft, even if you haven’t shoplifted.

Sentencing is commonly up to the judge, but the penal guidelines suggest no more than 180 days and/or a fine of no more than $2,000 for a class B misdemeanor. A class A misdemeanor can result in no more than 1 year in county jail and/or a fine of no more than $4,000.

Conclusion

Shoplifting affects everyone. It takes away valuable time from police officers and causes un-needed strain in the court system. Shoplifting adds to increased store-security costs, which results in increased taxes and ends up costing everyone in the community money.

Even after being caught, more than 50% of adults and more than 30% of teenagers find it difficult to quit stealing. Studies have shown that most shoplifters steal not because of poverty, but because of personal conflicts and psychological issues, such as depression or mental stress. It’s important that shoplifters seek professional help if needed.

Sources:

http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/

http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/PE/htm/PE.31.htm

http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/docs/CR/htm/Cr.38.htm

http://www.shopliftingprevention.org/whatnaspoffers/nrc/publiceducstats.htm

http://www.shopliftingprevention.org/shoplifting-laws/shoplifting-laws.html#sites

http://www.mytexasdefenselawyer.com/texas-criminal-laws-penalties/

Content provided by:

Alex Juel
Editorial Coordinator, Law Office of Scott C. Smith
Web: http://www.defenselawyer.net
Email: scslaws@gmail.com

Demystifying Malpractice Fabrications

Traducers of health care reform often unfurl nasty lies about medical negligence but a new white paper brings down this issue contiguously, disparaging the monotonous myths with profound research and science.

In a series of reports from the American Association for Justice (AAJ), show the errors and faults behind the most widely used talking points for health care reform challengers.

Fabrication #1: Malpractice claims increments health care costs.

Actuality: The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) states that the total amount spent in defending claims and compensations martyrs was a mere 0.3% of all total health care costs. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Government Accountability Office (GAO) have also found corresponding data.

Fabrication #2: Tort reform will demit insurance rates.

Actuality: Tort reforms are approved under the guise that they will lower physician’s liability premiums. This never happens. While insurers do pay less money when damage awards are awarded, they do not pass savings along to their doctors by lowering their premiums. Even the most vehement reform will have no effect on insurance rates.

AAJ President Anthony Tarricone stated, “All the facts and evidence show that tort law changes will do practically nothing to lower costs or cover the uninsured. It’s no wonder why the tort reformers, insurance lobby, and other corporate front groups have to gin up lies and phony stats, since no legitimate data or research supports their claims. Our focus should be on reducing the 98,000 deaths by medical error that occurs every year, not limiting patients’ legal rights.”

Fabrication #3: Malpractice claims raise doctors’ premiums.

Actuality: Research has found that there is minimal interconnection between malpractice premiums paid by doctors and malpractice payments. A collaborate study of the leading medical malpractice insurance companies’ financial statements  discovered that  these insurers artificially raised doctors’ premiums and hoodwinked the population about the nature of medical litigations. A past AAJ report on malpractice insurers found they had earnings higher than 99% of Fortune 500 companies.

Fabrication #4: Doctors are absconding.

Actuality: Where would they go? American Medical Association states that the number of practicing physicians in the United States has been growing profoundly for decades now, not decreasing. So not only are there more doctors, but the number of doctors is rising faster than the population growth. Despite the sniveling that doctors are running away to other states and countries, in actuality the number of physicians is growing in every single state, and yet only four states saw growth slower than their population growth and oddly enough these four states all have medical malpractice caps.

Fabrication #5: Too many “superficial” malpractice lawsuits.

 Actuality: There is a pandemic of medical negligence, not lawsuits. In fact, only one in eight patients injured by medical negligence actually files a lawsuit. Civil filings have actually declined eight percent in the last decade alone, and are less than one percent of the entire civil docket. A Harvard study in 2006 found that ninety-seven percent of claims were creditable, stating, “Portraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation are overblown.”

Content provided by Colorado Personal Injury Lawyers McCormick & Murphy.

Medtronic Bone Drug Linked to Higher Risk of Cancer

According to information released at a conference of spinal surgeons this week, a popular bone growth product manufactured by Medtronic may increase the risk of cancer in patients, if used in high doses.

According to the New York Times, Medtronic provided the Food and Drug Administration data seeking approval to market a high-strength formulation of its Infuse bone growth product.  However, the data shows that the higher dose combination could increase cancer risks.  Based on this information, the Food and Drug Administration has rejected the high-growth formulation, which is called Amplify.

According to data that was released at the conference, there were a higher number of cancers in persons that were given the Amplify bone growth product, compared to another group of persons that was given a bone graft.  Both Amplify and Infuse have the same base ingredient, a bioengineered bone growth protein called rhBMP-2.

The increased cancer risks come from using Amplify, which is a higher-dose version of Infuse.  However, what really worries defective product attorneys is the fact that many doctors frequently use Infuse at higher-than-recommended dosage levels.  The dosage levels in Infuse, in some cases, can touch those found in Amplify.

The researchers are even more concerned about the possible risks of cancer in persons who received the higher-than-recommended doses of Infuse, and are already at a high risk of cancer.  These people include those who smoke, or suffer from any other health factors that increase their risk of cancer.  According to the findings presented at the conference, morphogenetic proteins are linked to a 2.5 times greater risk of developing cancer about one year after taking the product.  These persons also have a five times greater risk of developing cancer about three years after taking the product.

This is the first time that Infuse has been linked to health problems.  In June, the Spine Journal released a series of reports on complications involving Infuse use, including infections, bone dissolution, male sterility and leg and back pain.  Medtronic says that it is currently sponsoring research to study the safety of the Infuse bone growth product.  The results of the study will come out sometime in 2012.

What personal injury attorneys are really concerned is the widespread off-label use of Infuse.  Infuse has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as part of dental procedures and in spinal fusion surgery.  However, doctors have been using it for a variety of other purposes as well, which are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Content provided by The Reeves Law Group- Los Angeles personal injury lawyers. To find out additional information visit their site.

Lawsuit Loans – Arguments on Both Sides

I was having a conversation with one of the principles at Law Leaf the other day and we were once again discussing the lawsuit loan industry. The company first contacted this blog several years ago and after a discussion I thought it would be a good idea to devote a small section of our site to the industry. For those people that are unfamiliar with the term “lawsuit loan”, by definition it’s a non recourse advance against a lawsuit. Lawsuit loans have been around for more than a decade but I’m told very few people know they exist. I was one of those people a few years ago.

I must admit I still have some mixed opinions about the industry. I can relate to both sides of the argument and quite frankly I’m probably one of the few people that actually pay attention to the direction of the industry. The industry is rapidly growing. Over the last several years, I’ve spoken to several attorneys that have given up their law practice for a shot at the legal financing industry. I know one attorney that is now in the lawsuit loan industry that was actually against the practice of lending money against pending cases (go figure).

I have mixed opinions because I’ve heard both sides of the story more than once. I can relate to both sides of the story and surely understand why each side is taking such a hard position. I think we can admit it all comes down to money.

The insurance industry and the Chamber of Commerce argue the industry is creating frivolous lawsuits. They also believe the industry should abide by state usury laws (usury laws will allow a lender to collect on their investment up to a certain percentage).

Insurance companies are losing tens of millions each year because of the lawsuit loan industry. The insurance industry is a huge money maker and yes I’ve got stock in some of these companies. I believe while only a very small piece of the pie is being chipped away, the insurance industry sees the business of lending money to plaintiffs as lost revenues. Secondly I don’t believe for one second the industry is creating frivolous lawsuits. I don’t know one investor that would put their hard earned dollars into a frivolous investment. In fact the majority of all lawsuit loan companies in the United States only work with personal injury victims that already have attorneys. These companies will never lend money for legal fees and if they believe the person will lose the case, they won’t invest in it.

Companies like Law Leaf & Oasis argue the insurance industry is one of the main reasons why the industry exists. They believe if the insurance industry did a better job offering victims faster and more affordable settlements from the start, there would be very little need for legal financing. They also argue against usury laws because a lawsuit loan is non recourse, meaning there is no guarantee the investor will receive their investment back.

While the lawsuit loan industry isn’t making the type of profits the insurance industry is making, they seem to be doing well. I personally know insurance companies can be tough and yes some will force people into early settlements to protect their profits. However I do believe the Chamber of Commerce has a point regarding rates. I’m not 100% sure what the rates are on a single investment but I hear they can be high if the case lags on. If a lawsuit loan company is making an investment in a case, you better believe it’s a sound investment; I’m sure they are not taking long shots by any means. I am a capitalist through and through but I do believe there should be some limits on how much you can charge a person. Lawsuit funding companies argue that there is a shot that a case could be lost for a whole host of reasons, but quite honestly I question how many of these cases are actually lost each year.

My Opinion:

I have a network of colleagues and friends that represent a broad scope of industries here in the United States. I have a rather large network of folks that work in the legal industry and several good friends that work in the insurance industry. I’ve heard both sides of the argument over the past few years and this is what I’ve concluded.  A lawsuit loan is expensive but when push comes to shove, it can actually be a better option in comparison to settling a case too soon. On the flip side, if a person is holding out for a few thousand dollars and it’s between taking the settlement offer or borrowing against the case, take the offer.

Payday Loan Rates

Payday loan rates are under major scrutiny. I do not intend to break down the rates for each state, nor will I go into the legal ramifications if a company is caught charging higher rates within a specific state. There was a past comment on an article that outlines the rates in each state. There is a link in the comment which will allow you to view the current payday loan rates within each state. I suggest you view the link if you are interested in looking at an advance.

As we uncovered in previous articles, payday loans are very expensive. In some cases a lender may charge upwards of over 400% for a cash advance. While this may seem to go against usury laws, there are many states that allow companies to charge exorbitantly high rates for their money. There are two sets of arguments.

There is an argument from the perspective of the lender. Payday loan companies argue they have to charge high rates because many people default on their loans. The industry argues without the high rates companies could be in jeopardy.  It is also important to understand the vast majority of people receiving payday loans don’t pay the full amount back on their next paycheck. This will ultimately increase the amount the borrower will have to pay back. There are some states that will allow a lender to rollover payments which in turn result on more interest and a higher payback.

I have looked at several consumer sites and they believe payday loan companies aren’t telling the whole truth. While the industry argues rates are high because of defaults, some consumer advocacy groups would beg to differ. There were two studies that I read which stated that payday loan company’s only write off a small percentage of their loans each year. While these groups argue that the percentages are much smaller than what the industry is alleging, there is very little information or statistical data on this topic. In fact, the two studies that I came across were from the mid to late 90’s.

As we mentioned in a previous article, each state makes up the laws that oversee the industry. These laws are being disputed on both sides of the aisle. If a company violates state laws they could be forced to pay harsh penalties and possible legal recourse.

Consumer groups recommend an alternative to paying high rates for payday loans:

  • Negotiate payment plans with your creditors – The problem is that most applicants aren’t trying to get a payday loan to pay off their creditors. They are trying to get an advance to pay for groceries, gas, gas and electrical bills and other expenses. If you are trying to secure an advance to pay off credit card bills etc. there is no question you should try setting up a payment plan instead of getting an advance.
  • Secured credit cards – The problem is that most credit card companies will not lend money to a person that has already defaulted with another credit card company.
  • Get an advance from your employer – I believe this is probably the best alternative however some people may feel uncomfortable asking their employer for an advance and some companies may not provide advances to their workers.

I guess when I look at the industry as a whole, I can understand both perspectives. I also know if a company has a choice to lend at a lower or higher rate, they will probably always charge the higher rate. The rates for payday loans are likely to change; it’s just a matter of time. Whether the change has a negative impact on the borrower or the lender is to be seen.

Payday Loan Brokers

Payday loan brokers are individuals or companies that serve as the mediator between the client and the direct lender. A broker is responsible for passing the names and information of applicants to a group of lenders, who in turn compete for their business; or at least that is what some brokers advertise.

Payday loan brokers serve an important role for some lenders because they are the marketing vehicle and lead generation source. A broker can help a company eliminate advertising and client acquisition expenses, ultimately increasing their operating budgets and hopefully profits. Most of the larger brokers in the industry have a network of direct lenders that will be given an opportunity to review the lead before purchasing it. Unlike other types brokering models in which a company gets paid a percentage of a transaction, payday loan brokers typically get paid on each lead.

While the set-up for each broker may be different the industry norm for the larger companies tends to follow the same model. When a broker receives a lead it’s disseminated through a chain. This chain is set up through a tiered system. These tiers allow selected lender to review an application and make a purchase. If the companies in the first tier opt out of a lead, the application will be sent to a second tier of direct lender. At this point the cost of acquiring the lead begins to decrease. This is called the tiered approach and most of the larger brokers have implemented a system that handles the different tiers. The first tier will always pay the most for a lead, while the last tier will get the lead at a large discount.

How do payday loan brokers advertise?

The majority of the top brokers in the industry use the internet as their number one advertising vehicle. Their websites are optimized to catch keyword phrases of potential clients searching for payday loans. When a client hits a site they will be giving an option to make a call through a toll free number or fill out an application. The application typically includes all the information that is needed to quickly underwrite a case and make an approval.

The other form of advertising is broadcast emails. Many of these brokers have a database of names of past clients and prospects. They will send out weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly emails. In these emails are direct links to their website which a person can easily fill out an application and submit.

As social media takes off we are finding an increase in brokers that are using Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms as a way to advertise their services.

Ongoing Legal and Regulation Issues

After doing research on this topic, I found a few interesting facts regarding payday loan brokers. As we discussed in a previous post, the payday loan industry is highly regulated. There are dozens of consumer advocacy groups that are fighting against the industry for lower rates and in some cases ceasing payday loans altogether. These regulations are directed towards the lender and not the broker. A broker doesn’t have to register with a state nor do they have to be licensed to sell leads. This is not uncommon because there are dozens of different industries within the financial markets in which an entity doesn’t have to be licensed. The big concern is lenders trying to pass as brokers in order to charge higher interest rates.

After federal regulators found that some lenders were partnering with national banking institutions in order to evade consumer protection laws, lenders began looking at other avenues in which can be used to sustain the rates they were used to charging applicants. According to a recent study by CRL, some lenders were posing as brokers in order to avoid interest rate caps. This is an ongoing problem that regulators are concerned about.

It’s my opinion that regulations will begin affecting brokers as well. As companies continue to game the system, regulators will be forced into making it mandatory to vent brokers as well; and this could have a grave effect on those companies that rely on brokerage firms to supplement their lead generation.

The first step is already happening. Today many states require brokers to list a disclaimer on their website stating they are not a direct lender.  I’m sure more laws will follow.

Payday Loan & Direct Lenders

Did you know that most of the payday loan companies on the internet (or those that you can find doing searches) are not direct lenders? Based upon the information I found, the majority of the direct lenders in this industry count on brokers. We will talk a little more about pay day loan brokers in articles to come.

The payday loan industry is a big business. The rates are high and the returns are plentiful. When a direct lender receives a lead from a potential prospect it’s in their interest to qualify and approve the client as fast as possible. You will find dozens of websites around the internet advertising they can approve an applicant within minutes. This has some validity. The majority of people will apply with more than one company, and it’s the company that approves the client first that has the best chance of securing the business.

There are different models when it comes to investments. A direct lender may receive their money through angel funding, banks, private investors or in some cases the principles may be the primary funding source. While most people believe that an investor will make money on every investment it’s just not true. Lenders are lending to individuals with less than good credit so it’s not uncommon for a loan to default. I have seen averages between 20% -40%+ of all loans will end up in default. Take this number with a grain of salt because these numbers are based upon the lenders.

As you can imagine, the payday loan industry is highly regulated. The majority of states have regulatory boards that oversee the industry in their respected states. If a payday lender decides to do business within a state, they must abide to the laws of the land. There are close to 20 states that prohibit high cost payday lending. Georgia is one state which prohibits direct lenders from doing business. According to CFA, a direct lender that is caught doing business in Georgia will be in violation of racketeering laws. In other states there are criminal usury laws in place which prohibits a lender from charging over a certain rate annually. There are other states that have no laws in place; hence there are no caps on what a direct lender can charge.

While I’m finding information on the Internet that makes suggestions that a company will do business in all 50 states, it’s highly unlikely the transaction is taking place in that state. A company that is a direct lending source must abide by state laws and if they don’t, legal problems are certainly to follow.

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