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.