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

Advertisements

What is Moral Panic and why does it occur?

According to Stanley Cohen, author of Folk Devils and Moral Panics (1972), a moral panic occurs when:

“[a] condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests.”

Analyses of different quotes have a common contemporary theme of core components, which are; escalation of fear or misunderstanding; about an imminent deviant threat to societal norms; about a certain labelled entity, which is; propagating a stereotype through the mass media. This can be seen in the usual political propaganda squeezed out over an election. The Sydney Morning Herald ran the headline:

“Stop boat people getting on boats – Julia Gillard PM”

This simple headline shows the escalation of fear or misunderstanding of illegal immigrants. The word ‘stop’ is a call to action and implies that something needs to be done. ‘Boat people’ is the label which implies the threat of illegal immigration and it ran in a national newspaper, purportedly endorsed by the PM and used to bring to the attention of the voting public an issue which is considered to be of grave concern. In reality, a study conducted by UQ research group says there were only 1033 boat people out of 48,700 illegal immigrants in Australia.

It must be argued that moral panic could occur as a catalyst to sway the majority into backing an idea that contravenes our human rights or not opposing oppressive draconian statute. This is not meant to imply that any of the immoral or socially unacceptable actions are engineered, simply that a situation might be manipulated to better serve the manipulator. In this paper it must be argued that moral panic is fundamental in allowing legislature to demonise a sector of society, highlight a ‘problem’ and then provide us with an oppressive solution which we must accept.

Morality is a very complex issue with no definitive answers, however there is some consensus that morality is subjective, normative and relative. The fact is that a moral action is relative and can become immoral or vice versa and subsequently, an act that was not deviant suddenly becomes so and there is ebb and flow with regards to laws and legislation. It should be argued that everyone can see the relative nature of morality throughout their life time, within woman’s rights, civil rights, rights in the workplace and human rights.

What are human rights? It must be argued that human rights are inalienable; they are innate within us as a sovereign inhabitant of Planet Earth. Proponents of the concept usually assert that everyone is endowed with certain entitlements merely by reason of being human. The right to liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of expression and art are a few examples.

The result of moral panics which contravene our human rights include the censoring of classic books and art, legislature creating oppressive statutes regarding peoples’ private sexual practices, restrictions in adult entertainment, over sensitivity to perfectly normal practices like kissing your own children on the lips and taking photos of them at school. Also, there are those which border on the ridiculous, for example, Tinky Winky the Teletubby and Dumbledore from Harry Potter being gay and the banning or censorship of these materials.

By distorting statistics or omitting the whole truth politicians can play to whatever emotion or sense of moral righteousness they want. It must be argued that the concept of moral panic is one of the most important factors in the public acceptance of normally unacceptable behaviour. For example the continued detention of prisoners under the Dangerous Prisoners Act in Queensland allows for the indefinite lawful detention of prisoners after the completion of their sentence. This reduces rights by the deprivation of liberty but most importantly it contravenes the doctrine of the separation of powers, a fundamental principal of democracy.

Other oppressive practices such as the mandatory internet filter contravene our basic rights. It should be argued that the internet is an amazing instrument for free speech and freedom of expression and therefore net neutrality is a vital ‘even and level’ playing field. It is because of this equal playing field that enables access to some information of a questionable nature. The moral panic over online sexual predators can be seen in a Perth Now headline saying:

“POLICE have issued a warning to all parents after identifying disturbing new tactics being used by sexual deviants to entrap children”

And then in their next breath make the claim that;

“Police have not yet arrested or charged anyone for directly grooming children through X-Box 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii consoles”

It is understandable that the most vulnerable members in our society need protection from a very small minority and the topic of sex offender rights is never going to be popular, however the draconian measures given by our politicians and the unabashed trampling underfoot of the most precious and fundamental human rights, need to be seriously questioned. It was William Blackstone who wrote:

“[t]he law holds that it is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer”

So what is the process?
The press create a “Folk Devil” or something which is instantly identifiable as a problem, for example Islamic people as terrorists, Dennis Ferguson as the face of a child predator or the baby face of Jon Venables as the poster boy of moral decay in society. At the height of the moral panic, after a scapegoat has been demonised, the press or politicians introduce an otherwise unpopular solution that will save us from this again in the future. Because of the panic created, the fear, the twisted statistics, omissions and sometimes bare faced lies, the public willingly give away something that should not be so easily given. It was Benjamin Franklin who said:

“They, who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

What have we given away? As well as the examples mentioned already, there are hundreds of examples of human rights erosion, for example in terrorism legislation. The Australian Human Rights Commission states that:

“Counter-terrorism laws can have a profound impact on fundamental human rights and freedoms, including: the right to a fair trial, the right not to be subjected to arbitrary detention, freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to freedom of expression, the right to freedom of movement, the right to privacy, the right to non-discrimination, the right to an effective remedy for a breach of human rights.”

Would we have been so keen to hand all of these rights over if not for the scare of 9/11, 7/7 or the Bali bombing when in reality, since 9/11 not a single Australian has been killed on Australian soil from terrorism?

It must be concluded that the moral panic surrounding terrorism, the demonization of Islam and the fear drummed up in the press was an integral part of the process. The same must be argued for refugees arriving by boat that are essentially locked up in prisons while they are being processed, and sex offenders being tortured in jail by inmates with the possibility they may not be released and many other examples.

A question must be raised when addressing these issues, which is, why are the government and legislature throwing away fundamental human rights? The answer is something which cannot be answered here; however, a concise suggestion might be that in an attempt to establish a social order within a landscape of an ever changing society and the instant gratification of the masses that get their information about the world from TV and the tabloid press, measures are enforced quickly rather than thoughtfully.

It must also be concluded that without moral panic and the trial by media, we would not be so quick to give away our basic human rights, rights that our forefathers fought for and rights that we should be protecting for our children.

http://www.aussielawyer.com.au
http://aussielawyer-au.blogspot.com

DUI/DWI and Underage Drinking

In 2005 the Center for Disease Control conducted a Youth Risk Behavior Survey. They found that 28.5% of students nationwide had, at some point during the 30 days preceding the study, ridden in a car or other vehicle that was driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol. Additionally, they found that 9.9% of students nationwide had driven a car or other vehicle while they had been drinking alcohol during the 30 days preceding the survey.

Differences Between Adults and Underage Drinkers

While adults usually drink in restaurants or bars, underage drinkers usually drink in remote locations, like at a camping site or a beach party. They also tend to congregate in large numbers at private homes, in parks or concerts. Underage drinkers often drink at different times of the day, for example after school. Citations for adult drinking and driving usually occur between 2 A.M. and 3 A.M.

Underage drinkers are less experienced drivers and less experienced drinkers. Underage drunk drivers have more fatalities at lower Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels than adult drivers. To combat this, many states have zero-tolerance laws for underage drinking and driving.

Zero Tolerance

Zero tolerance laws target drivers that are under the legal drinking age. Drivers under age 21 can be penalized for any trace of alcohol in their system. States that don’t have zero tolerance laws have stricter penalties for underage drinking and driving. Also, underage drinkers will face additional charges because just consuming alcohol is illegal. In some cases the parents of the teen or another adult that furnished the alcohol can be held accountable for any injuries or damages caused by the underage DUI.

Underage Drinking and Driving Statistics

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 2007, 28% of 16 to 20 year old drivers that were fatally injured in car accidents had BACs of 0.08 or higher. Also, drivers age 16 to 20 with BACs of 0.05 to 0.08 are far more likely to be killed in a single-vehicle crash than sober teenage drivers:

  • 17 times more likely for males
  • 7 times more likely for females

At BACs of 0.08 to 0.10 it goes up to 52 times more likely to be killed for males and 15 times more likely for females.

Underage drinking and driving is a serious problem. Drivers age 16 to 20 already make up a large percentage of vehicle accidents because of their inexperience. Lack of driving experience combined with their inexperience with the effects of alcohol is very dangerous for them and for all the other people on the road.

This article is for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact an attorney in your local area for more information about DUI/DWI Law.

Additional Legal Guidance: DWI Attorney Michael Lowe. Serving clients in Dallas, Texas.

Texas DWI Laws

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2006 Texas had 1,400 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, which was 39.6% of all the traffic fatalities for that year. Then in 2007 there were 1,292 alcohol-impaired fatalities, which was 38.4% of all traffic fatalities that year.  In both 2006 and 2007 Texas had more alcohol related traffic fatalities than any other state.

The state of Texas has many laws that relate to drinking and driving. In Texas, the legal limit for Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is 0.08%, but if the driver is under 21 years old any amount of alcohol is a crime.

Driving While Intoxicated

DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated, and it refers to any type of intoxication, whether its illegal drugs, prescription drugs or alcohol. DWI can apply to both minors and adults.

Only one of the following is required to prove DWI:

  • A Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher
  • Loss of normal mental faculties
  • Loss of normal physical faculties

Loss of faculties is determined using field sobriety tests. BAC is determined by a blood or breath test. Drivers have a right to refuse a BAC or field sobriety test, but if they do their license is automatically suspended for 180 days because of implied consent laws. Implied consent means that when someone was given a driver’s license they automatically agreed to submit to field sobriety or BAC tests.

DWI Penalties in Texas

The severity of the penalties for DWI varies based on the number of times the person has been convicted of DWI in Texas. Additionally, if a driver’s license is suspended, upon having it reinstated there is a surcharge that ranges from $1,000 to $2,000 a year for 3 years to keep their driver’s license active. The surcharge is called a Driver Responsibility Tax.

First Offense:

  • Up to $2,000 fine
  • 90 days to 1 year suspension of driver’s license
  • The possibility of 72 hours to 180 days in jail

Second Offense:

  • Up to $4,000 fine
  • 180 days to 2 years suspension of driver’s license
  • The possibility of 30 days to 1 year in jail

Third Offense:

  • Up to $10,000 fine
  • 180 days to 2 years suspension of driver’s license
  • The possibility of 2 to 10 years in jail

In some instances even a first offense can be a felony. If someone is caught drinking and driving with a passenger that is under 15 years old it is an automatic felony. Also, if a drunk driver causes an accident that results in a fatality they are charged with intoxication manslaughter which is a 2nd degree felony.

Texas has more traffic fatalities that are related to alcohol than any other state. Because of this penalties are severe for first time offenders and become greater with each subsequent conviction.

This article is for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact an attorney in your local area for more information about Texas DWI Law.

Defend Drunk Driven Cases with DWI Attorney

When a person is charged for Driving While Intoxicated or has been arrested for a serious offense under DWI, then he needs an aggressive criminal defense plan. These days, most people opt for an attorney who can craft out aggressive criminal defense plan so as to defend the case and attain justice. While dealing with Dallas Criminal Defense Law, a person always needs an experienced lawyer on his side who can explain all the rights of a person and can fight for them. Dallas Criminal Defense Law involves a criminal justice system and a DWI Attorney dealing with the cases should be familiar with this system so as to defend the case appropriately.

Assigning Attorney

DWI Attorneys generally focus their practice on drunken driving defense cases which incorporate maximum citizens and college students. More often than not, the cases that come up include Driving While Intoxication, Occupational Driver’s License and expunging of records so that it does not affect the client in any ways. The alcohol and drug crimes involve various charges with which people are found accused. These crimes include:

  • Drug Possession
  • Boating While Intoxicated
  • Flying While Intoxicated
  • Driving while Intoxicated
  • Intoxicated Manslaughter
  • Minor in Possession

Benefit of Appointing DWI Attorney

These days, there are numerous criminal defense law firms from where people can decide on for appointing a DWI Attorney who can explain all the rights of the conflict and can fight to attain justice for them. If the legal representative is able to win the case, then the criminal record of the client can be maintained clear. The knowledge and experience of the public prosecutor helps people to move out of the appalling situations and if in case their driving license was cancelled, the abandonment is taken back. The best part is that most lawyer’s believe in “no win no fee” making it explicit for the people that they can seek justice.

Measures for Appointing Attorney

However, people should bear several important aspects in mind while appointing a legal representative for defending their case. DWI Attorney that a person decides on for should be able to provide an aggressive defense and should also endow with sound legal counsel for making it easier for the people to take healthy decisions. Moreover, one should be capable of keeping the record clean so that it does not affect the personal and professional upfront of the client. Also, the lawyer should be experienced enough and should be competent of handling multiple active cases simultaneously.

There are numerous websites presented on the internet from where people can appoint the preeminent DWI Attorney for defending their case. If a person requires counseling regarding his case, these legal representatives can serve people with sound advice, as well. As these lawyers are well versed with the criminal justice system of Dallas, they can acquaint people with all the associated laws and commandments. So, if you also wish to get your criminal case defended under DWI, appoint DWI Attorney who is on top of things with Dallas Criminal Defense Law.

This article should not be construed as legal advice.

Related legal pages for more information: Attorney Michael Lowe of Dallas, TX. Serving all of Texas.

Texas DWI Laws

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2006 Texas had 1,400 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, which was 39.6% of all the traffic fatalities for that year. Then in 2007 there were 1,292 alcohol-impaired fatalities, which was 38.4% of all traffic fatalities that year.  In both 2006 and 2007 Texas had more alcohol related traffic fatalities than any other state.

The state of Texas has many laws that relate to drinking and driving. In Texas, the legal limit for Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is 0.08%, but if the driver is under 21 years old any amount of alcohol is a crime.

Driving While Intoxicated

DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated, and it refers to any type of intoxication, whether its illegal drugs, prescription drugs or alcohol. DWI can apply to both minors and adults.

Only one of the following is required to prove DWI:

  • A Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher
  • Loss of normal mental faculties
  • Loss of normal physical faculties

Loss of faculties is determined using field sobriety tests. BAC is determined by a blood or breath test. Drivers have a right to refuse a BAC or field sobriety test, but if they do their license is automatically suspended for 180 days because of implied consent laws. Implied consent means that when someone was given a driver’s license they automatically agreed to submit to field sobriety or BAC tests.

DWI Penalties in Texas

The severity of the penalties for DWI varies based on the number of times the person has been convicted of DWI in Texas. Additionally, if a driver’s license is suspended, upon having it reinstated there is a surcharge that ranges from $1,000 to $2,000 a year for 3 years to keep their driver’s license active. The surcharge is called a Driver Responsibility Tax.

First Offense:

  • Up to $2,000 fine
  • 90 days to 1 year suspension of driver’s license
  • The possibility of 72 hours to 180 days in jail

Second Offense:

  • Up to $4,000 fine
  • 180 days to 2 years suspension of driver’s license
  • The possibility of 30 days to 1 year in jail

Third Offense:

  • Up to $10,000 fine
  • 180 days to 2 years suspension of driver’s license
  • The possibility of 2 to 10 years in jail

In some instances even a first offense can be a felony. If someone is caught drinking and driving with a passenger that is under 15 years old it is an automatic felony. Also, if a drunk driver causes an accident that results in a fatality they are charged with intoxication manslaughter which is a 2nd degree felony.

Texas has more traffic fatalities that are related to alcohol than any other state. Because of this penalties are severe for first time offenders and become greater with each subsequent conviction.

This article is for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact an attorney in your local area for more information about Texas DWI Law.

Finding a Criminal Attorney to help you

If you have been in trouble and find yourself facing criminal charges? If you’re innocent you should find an attorney right away. But if you’re guilty you should also locate an attorney who handles criminal law. With an attorney you may be able to get a better deal and not serve as much jail time.

Finding a good criminal attorney isn’t too hard most cities will have a bunch of choices. But if you live in a little town, you may not find as many attorney’s to make a choice between. One of the biggest things you should make sure is the fees that the law firm you choose will charge you. If you don’t have a lot of money this will be a tougher decision, you can ask if they will accept payments too for their services. Most law firms will try and work with you in order to help you out.

Facing criminal charges is tough enough, your friends and loved ones will be worried about you, and you will feel the pressure of trying to prove that you didn’t commit the crime. Or trying to get an attorney who can present the case in a way that may in fact get you out of the charges. A lot of people out there think if you’re guilty you should be made to face justice. But maybe you had nothing to do with the crime, but were only in the wrong place at the wrong time. That could make you look guilty, but you didn’t do anything. With a great criminal attorney on your side they can make the jury see the case for what it is. Explaining everything in a way that will prove that you had nothing to do with the crime you were charged for.

Working with your DWI lawyer you can tell what happened and let them know if anyone was around who can prove you weren’t part of the crime. You will need to find a lawyer who can focus on your case, giving it all the attention it will need. One who when you call to ask a question will either answer it right away, or find the answer for you within a 24 period. Communication is a big plus when you are facing any kind of charge, but a criminal charge that may find you spending a large number or years in jail it’s even more important than every. Don’t settle on the very first attorney who you contact, but check a few different ones and see who you feel will handle your case better.

Comparing is a very important thing when you dealing with something as serious as criminal charges. Try to find a criminal attorney who has a great win record, and one that you feel will give you case all the attention it deserves. Don’t make ridiculous demands though only ask for what any attorney would give your case. Find one that puts your case as a top priority.

**This is not legal advice. Please consult with a local attorney about your specific case.**

This article was provided by Gerrid Smith and sponsored by the Driver Law Firm in Raleigh, NC.