THE procedure that law enforcement uses on Walmart shoplifters has been revealed.
A criminal defense lawyer has given details on what to do in this instance, and it may surprise you how easy it is to get caught.
"If you're caught shoplifting from Walmart in Texas, you may face criminal theft charges," Criminal Defense Attorney Ralph Manginello said in a video on the Attorney 911 law site.
To avoid confusion about how this all-too-common instance occurs, Manginello provided a guide for viewers on exactly what shoplifting is, and how to avoid the legal trouble involved with the lifting of merchandise.
"The term shoplifting means stealing merchandise from an open retail store," Manginello explains.
Manginello practices law in Texas, and Texas Penal Code Section 31.03 counts shoplifting under the broader umbrella of theft.
As a simplification of law, Manginello says states like Texas roll shoplifting, embezzlement, extortion, and the receipt of stolen property all into the same theft prosecution.
"If you take property that is not yours without permission, and don't intend to give it back, you've committed a theft."
This kind of theft enacted in a retail store "during business hours," is considered shoplifting.
Does Walmart Call Authorities on Shoplifters?
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Shoplifting procedures can vary from Walmart to Walmart, the store will "often call the cops for shoplifting offenses," Manginello said.
"If you're caught shoplifting from Walmart, a loss prevention officer may reasonably detain you at the store, until the police arrive."
When the police arrive, the attorney said it is common for the shoplifter to be placed under arrest.
Still, there may be a slight ray of hope for those who are committing what is considered a "low-level offense," like stealing a negligible amount of goods.
In this instance, Manginello said that there is a chance that the responding officer will merely issue a citation to the perpetrator.
What is the Cost of Goods that Will Get You Locked Up?
In Texas, shoplifters can be charged with anything from a Class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony.
"The classification of your offense will depend on the monetary value of the merchandise, and if you have a prior criminal record," Manginello said.
"If the value of the stolen merchandise is less than $100, and you have no prior theft convictions on your record, you can only be convicted of a Class C Misdemeanor."
He explained that a person cannot receive jail time for a Class C, and that the maximum punishment for such is a $500 fine.
"If the value of the merchandise is $100 or more, or if it's less than $100 but you have a previous theft conviction, you can be convicted of a Class B or Class A Misdemeanor, or a felony and face possible jail time."
Will Walmart Rollback Theft Charges?
Criminal Defense Attorney Manginello pressed that while it is possible the big-box giant can drop theft charges, "you shouldn't count on it," as "some Walmarts are notorious for over-zealously persuing even minor shoplifting charges."
The legal expert goes on to explain that those who are first-time offenders can get their charge expunged or even dismissed through the use of their county's deferred adjudication, or a pre-trial diversion program.
Both of these outlets help civilians get their charges properly addressed by the legal system without them having to go all the way up to legislative council.
Should You Lawyer-Up After Shoplifting?
"If you've been arrested for shoplifting, you should retain a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible," Manginello recommended.
While jail time is enough to scare a person into getting legal protection, shoplifting convictions can also "severely limit your employment options and impact your future opportunities."
A good shoplifting lawyer can help a defendant understand their charges, and what their options are for fighting against them.
Attorneys will also be privy to county-specific information on deferred adjudication and pre-trial adjudication.
Manginello also urges those who have already gotten a charge to act quickly, as the deadlines for these programs can come up quickly.
Missing these dates could mean a civilian losing their only chance to avoid charges in court.
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