What is ‘Petty’ Theft? Everything You Need to Know


Shoplifting is a term used to describe taking any type of merchandise without the intention to pay for it. Other descriptions of the same crime may include petty theft, fourth-degree theft or petty larceny. In Texas, charges for shoplifting can result in many harsh penalties regardless of a person’s age, especially if the accused has a previous criminal record.

Possible Petty Theft Penalties

The value of the stolen items plays a major role on imposed penalties in addition to the offender’s previous criminal history. The possible punishments are categorized into two groups.

  • Misdemeanor charges: For items valued up to $1,499, the penalties may include up to one year of incarceration, up to $4,000 in fees or the combination of both.
  • Felony charges: If the stolen merchandise has a value of $1,500 or more, the crime is charged as a felony, and the penalties may be as severe as 99 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fees.

The crime is typically treated as a misdemeanor if the value of the merchandise is low. Furthermore, the penalties may vary if the offender is a juvenile under 18 years of age. If the individual has no prior record, the punishment may consist of community service and a certain amount of time in counseling.

Reasons for False Accusations of Petty Theft

In many cases theft charges are dropped due to insufficient evidence or the accused being unfamiliar with the local rules and regulations. The following circumstances may result in faulty shoplifting accusations:

  • Failing to pay after dining with others because you think someone else paid for the meal
  • Trying on new clothing or shoes and forgetting to pay the bill
  • Being unaware that the price tag for a certain item is wrong


A defense lawyer will review all the facts and evidence of the case, including the footage from surveillance cameras and testimonies obtained from any possible witnesses. If it is determined that the accused individual took the merchandise by mistake, he or she may simply be asked to return the items in question without facing any criminal proceedings.

Although petty theft crimes are generally less serious than other criminal offenses, they may leave a permanent mark on a defender’s record. It is imperative to contact a criminal attorney to have the charges dismissed or lessened if possible.

For a free evaluation of your theft case, call Mario Madrid and the Madrid Law Firm at 713-877-9400.

Obtaining Goverment Assistance Can Lead To A Welfare Fraud Theft Conviction


Well meaning people who find themselves on hard times often turn to the government for a hand up to help with household needs such as food for their children. The process is sometimes confusing as the person is asked about their income and expenses. Government assistance is based on need. An individual may not qualify if they make what the government deems to be too much.

In this process if a confused individual accidentally gives misinformation unintentionally and receives benefits that they did not qualify for, they may one day be facing theft charges. This is the common set of facts of cases files by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office Public Assistance Fraud Division. The beneficiary of the benefits is charged with theft.

Theft is found in the Penal Code Section 31.03 and reads: A person commits an offense if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property. The key here is did the beneficiary of the benefits intent to deprive the government of the property. Keep in mind these are the welfare queens that in the past been reported in the media driving around in Mercedes Benz. These are poor women trying to feed their children. They cannot use food stamps to buy beer, liquor or designer purses. The benefits are used to obtain basics like bread and milk.

A conviction for a felony theft will leave the defendant with the almost impossible task of finding a job with not only a theft but a felony. The person will become unemployable and a further burden on society rather than a productive taxpayer. This is plain and simple bad policy. The more appropriate action would be to have the money paid back and ban the person from receiving benefits. A theft conviction is not the answer.

If you or someone you know is in need of the services of a Houston Theft Attorney, call Houston Board Certified Attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

Mother Arrested Over Sandwich


A woman shopping at a local supermarket in Hawaii was arrested for theft for not paying for a sandwich she ate as she shopped. You can read the full story here. The story made national news after the woman, who is 30 months pregnant and her husband who was with her, were arrested and their 2 year old daughter was taken into state custody with Child Welfare Services.

According to the woman she intended to pay for the sandwich, she saved the wrapping, but forgot when she paid for her other groceries. However, the store held her and her family and called the police who arrested her for shoplifting.

This is actually a scenario more common than one would think. Often times we get busy and distracted by cell phones or children and forget something. I have represented people in the exact scenario and fortunately have been successful in getting these cases dismissed.

A theft conviction can be extremely detrimental to getting a job or even an apartment. If you or someone you know is in need of a Houston Theft Attorney call Texas Board Certified Attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

Houston Ex-UPS Worker Charged With Theft


A Houston man was charged with stealing 70 personal computers and selling them on eBay, according to the Houston Chronicle. The man allegedly had a gambling debt and purchased the PCs using UPS funds. He then allegedly sold them on eBay.

The case is a good example of the value ladder of theft charges and the Harris County Bail  Schedule. In Harris County if someone is charged with a Third Degree Felony and the accused has no prior convictions, the bond will be set at $5,000, as it was in this case. Because the theft alleged in the present case is between $20,000 and $100,000 the case is charged as a Third Degree Felony with a range of punishment between 2-10 years in prison.

Under Texas Penal Code Sec. 31.03.  THEFT.  (a)  A person commits an offense if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property. The level of offense for a theft is based on value of the property that is alleged to have been stolen. Theft charges cover the full range of punishment levels of the penal code. The following is the value ladder for theft in Texas:

Class C Misdemeanor

  • Less than$20 (theft of property by check)
  • Less than$50

Class B Misdemeanor

  • Greater than$20 but less than $500 (theft of property by check)
  • Greater than $50 but less than $500

Class A Misdemeanor

  • Greater than $500 but less than $1,500

State Jail Felony

  • Greater than$1,500 but less than $20,000

Third Degree Felony

  • Greater than$20,000 but less than$100,000

Second Degree Felony

  • Greater than $100,000 but less than $200,000

First Degree Felony

  • $200,000 plus

If you or someone you know is need of a Houston Theft Attorney call Texas Board Certified Attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

Man Charged With Theft of ATM


A Harris County man was charged with Theft of an ATM.

The man allegedly worked alone and used a forklift to steal the ATM. The forklift was also allegedly stolen. A witness saw the man and called the police who arrived shortly. The man was arrested less than a mile from the bank.

The theft is estimated to be over $200,000 which makes the case a First Degree Felony and carries a possible punishment of 5 years to 99 years in prison. Read the original article here.

If you have been arrested of theft and need a Houston Theft Attorney, call Texas Board Certified criminal defense lawyer Mario Madrid at (713) 877-9400 to set up a time to discuss your situation.