Houston ranks 4th in the country for organized retail theft activity since 2021, and organized retail crime has risen 26.5% since the end of the pandemic. Retailers report incidents are getting increasingly violent.
The task force mainly consists of retailers like Amazon, eBay, Target, and H-E-B rather than law enforcement organizations.
Nevertheless, they intend to suggest legislation, and such a task force hints that retailers will be more vigilant than ever. Even innocent parties may be more at risk, especially if they accidentally leave something at the bottom of their cart or fail to scan something at the automatic scanner.
Organized retail theft isn’t just shoplifting of course. The Texas Retailer’s Association defines it as “large-scale theft of retail merchandise with the goal of reselling the goods for personal financial benefit.” Often, these are “smash and grab” crimes.
The Texas Penal Code allows law enforcement to charge people with organized retail theft directly. Even if you are not directly involved in a “smash and grab,” you may be arrested if police have reason to believe you are operating as a “fence” for the theft of retail merchandise.
As with any theft crime, the severity of the charge depends upon the amount of merchandise involved in the theft. Merchandise that was worth less than $100 would be a Class C misdemeanor, whereas merchandise worth over $300,000 would be a felony in the second degree.
In the 2018 case Lang v. State, the Court of Appeals ruled that a charge of organized retail theft does require more than one actor. A simple theft charge is more appropriate when it is evident there was only one person involved in the theft.
If you are charged with organized retail theft, it is more important than ever for you to work closely with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you defend against these charges. Remember, in Texas, the public defender program is quite limited, counsel barely gets paid, and many public defenders are disinterested in doing more than the bare minimum for defendants.
The mood has turned quite unforgiving, and judges are handing down the harshest sentence they can.
In trouble? Contact our office to get started today. We may be able to help you get your charges dropped, dismissed, or reduced. We may also be able to present evidence that gets you acquitted at trial.
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