"Just" Pleading Guilty to Class C Theft in Texas

Question:  I recently received a citation with a violation of "theft under $50'.

The police officer advised me to go to court and appear before the judge and pay the fine.  However I am not sure if I pay my fine, will my background check always reveal this offense?

How can I go about getting this erased from my records? Should I plead Not Guilty?

Answer: I feel obligated to mention that the police officer should not be giving advice of this sort to people he writes citations (or anyone else for that matter). Nothing will come of that though, so on to your real questions…

Should I plead ‘Not Guilty’? Absolutely. “Just” paying the fine, as the officer advised you, is a plea of guilty or no contest, and will result in a permanent criminal conviction for theft on your record forever.

A conviction for theft is a ‘crime involving moral turpitude’…meaning basically that you are being convicted of something that labels you as either (1) a bad person or (2) a person who did a bad thing, depending on who is doing the defining. (I, however, am a criminal defense attorney, and not one given to making moral judgments about other people, so you’re going to have to try a lot harder than Class C Theft to offend me.)

If you enter a plea of Not Guilty, however, you will probably be given the opportunity to enter into a deferred disposition, jump through some hoops, and get the case dismissed. Successful completion of a Class C deferred will then entitle you to expunge the offense from your record - although, recent caselaw indicates that you may have to wait 2 years to do so. Still, no conviction, and an expunction in two years is better than a theft conviction on your record for life.

Finally, what do I mean by “jump through some hoops”? Well, deferred dispositions in Theft cases usually require you to pay a fine, take a shoplifting class, maybe do some community service, and promise to stay out of trouble for up to 6 months.  The exact terms vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

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Andrea - November 10, 2007 11:31 PM

question?:
hi!I got cought shoplifting at a beauty store( 3 perfumes) the police arrested me and took me to jail, i got out that same night with a personal bond. they told me i had to pay 20 dollars by mail and then make an appointment to appear at the travis county in the next 2 weeks. when i went to the appointment they reeschedule for december at court.
i don't have a lawyer and they said this was a misdemeanor....what is going to happend? what should i do...if i can't afford a lawyer would they provide one for me?, am i going to jail? what kind of punishment is there for shoplifting?.

scott - January 6, 2008 10:14 AM

i got a computer from a rent to own company and i payed well over the value of the computer and i keep getting jerked around on the final payment,,so i just dont pay anymore on it and they called me and said they will turn me in for theft by diseption. should i just let it go to court and settle the final payment there ?

veronica - April 14, 2008 9:32 PM

My daughter was in the mall with her friend and her friend stole a pair of sunglasses my daughter did not steal merchandise nor was she aware that her friend stole. They were both stopped outside of the store and brought to the office where they were asked to sign a civil form if they wanted to leave so they did. My daughters belongings were searched and they found nothing her friend not so lucky they did find a pair of sunglasses. She told them my daughter didn't know and they still held my daughter now I have retained a lawyer, paid collateral for the summary date and recieved a letter from the stores attorney to pay 477.00 in a civil judgement against me the parent. This is going to cost me well over two thousand dollars and she is innocent. The store security did not call the police and called me after holding her for one hour. How do these people get away with this. I feel like I am in a maze and cannot get out. Day after day letters from lawyers and such. It is harrassment of the worst kind because there is nothing I can do about it except jump through their hoops and hope all turns out okay and that one sane person will see what is going on, otherwise my daughter will be an A student with a scholarship and a record.

jenecia-09-17-08 - September 17, 2008 10:54 AM

Question?
I had some returned checks that caused myself to be fined & be put on probation because I pleaded guilty. The probation & fee was paid.This happen over 15 years ago.I am trying to get a better job & haven't been successful because of the misdemeanor charges.Is it possible to get my records Sealed so no one has access to these records?

elizabeth - July 31, 2009 5:25 PM

i got a citation for theft and havent yet pleaded guilty.i have gotten arrested before for theft i took the class and did community service and a lawyer took care of my deferred dispositions. since this is my second time getting convicted im worried and i didnt mean to do it this time.i had items under my shopping cart and they called the police and wrote me a citation.will i go to jail?is it possible i need to get another lawyer so i can do deferred disposition again?or am i better off just pleading guilty and paying the fine?

kerian - November 12, 2009 4:26 PM

i was caught shoplifting and the security call the police when the police came he worte me a sommon he did not write a date or a fine for me to pay , i was not arrested ,he said i he would notifiy me in the mail,so i called the police station trying to find out how i would know when to go to court because weeks went by so they gave me the manucipal court number i call there and and they said they did not saw my name i call there like every two days but still nothing its being 6 months now and im so worried that there is a warrant out for my arrest what should i do?

kerian - November 12, 2009 4:26 PM

i was caught shoplifting and the security call the police when the police came he worte me a sommon he did not write a date or a fine for me to pay , i was not arrested ,he said i he would notifiy me in the mail,so i called the police station trying to find out how i would know when to go to court because weeks went by so they gave me the manucipal court number i call there and and they said they did not saw my name i call there like every two days but still nothing its being 6 months now and im so worried that there is a warrant out for my arrest what should i do?

scoot-scoot - December 5, 2009 9:48 PM

i received a class c misdemeanor in dec. of 2009.i dnt remember if i plead not guilty or no content. but caN I GET IT EXPUNGED.

Bear - December 10, 2009 10:20 PM

I was 19 and shoplifted something under $10 value. I feel my previous attorney did not inform me on what the process was and I was confused and ended up pleading guilty or no contest, thus having it on my record. Can you seal, expunge, or appeal this for me? If so I would to work with you to get this done. It is almost 8 years since. Please let me know

Amber - August 26, 2010 8:18 PM

I am on probation at this time for perscription fraud.I got 3 years and in october I am asking for early realease. Yesterday I got a theft under 50 ticket its a class c. I really dont want this to affect my probation because I have 2 months till I ask for early release I have done all requirements and my last PO appointment my officer said I should be granted the early realease.. It was a misunderstanding and the ticket is only 8 dollars. Should I plead guilty or not guilty in order for it not to affect me. The ticket is for 8 dollars? Please let me know thank u so much!

Joseph - September 28, 2010 10:04 PM

I was wondering if I could have a class c misdemeanor for theft expunged as I am trying to contract with the Army. I was charged for theft of less than 5 articles of clothing valued at less than $50 that were left behind by outgoing students. These were strewn about the first floor of the dorm where I was visiting a friend and not clearly labeled that they were for donation to local charities. I thought it was free and took some. They have pictures of me exiting the dorm with the articles and have the testimony of a residence advisor there saying he heard noises. I had no idea I was stealing but plead guilty as I thought I did steal although I was unaware I was doing so. This event occurred at the end of spring '10. I went to court in June.

Melanie - October 16, 2010 10:30 PM

I was given a citation for a class c misdemeanor of theft under $50... the thing is that I am not sure if I should plead guilty or not guilty for the crime... I made a s****d mistake and it feels as if I will be paying for this for the rest of my life... what r my options? Should i hire a lawyer to represent me in court or will I be able to have the deferred disposition offered without one? You also stated in the article that you would not be convicted... therefore does that mean that it wont be on my record at all? Or would I have to still go through the expunction portion once I have completed the disposition? Please help...

Lauren - March 7, 2012 11:37 PM

I agree with Melanie and have a similar story. I received a class c misdemeanor along with two of my friends. The place wouldn't let me pay for the item we had ate and already called the police on us. I have never been in trouble before, I've never even skipped school. I want to know what's going to happen and what I should do. My court date is on April 3, and i just want to be prepared.

Lauren - March 7, 2012 11:40 PM

I agree with Melanie and have a similar story. I received a class c misdemeanor along with two of my friends. The place wouldn't let me pay for the item we had ate and had already called the police on us. I have never been in trouble before, I've never even skipped school. I want to know what's going to happen and what I should do. My court date is on April 3, and I just want to be prepared.

Rhonda DAy - February 15, 2013 11:01 AM

My son just received a citation for theft under $50 for not returning videos. Since 2009 he has struggled with addiction and has been in jail twice plus rehab. Honestly he doesn't even remember the event due to the heavy drug usage but that is still no excuse, he should have returned the movies. He can not afford to have a theft charge on his record along with his misdemeanors for possession and a DWI. He is finishing out a 3 month sentence as we speak and they city actually brought the citation to him at the jail. Is there a way to fight this and keep it off of his record? I will pay the fine or restitution. He is finally clean and I don't want him to have any more charges. Life will be hard enough with the drug and DWI charge. I look forward to hearing from you.

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