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Theft, Shoplifting, Hot Checks

Theft is a serious charge that can have long-term effects on your future even if the case is ultimately dismissed.  Many students mistakenly believe that theft or shop lifting of low-value items does not count but they are wrong.  Others believe that it is morally okay to steal as long as they only take necessary items such as food or medicine. They are also wrong.  Taking property without permission is always wrong and can get you into trouble that can have lifelong consequences.

In Texas, a person commits a crime if they write a check in exchange for something, knowing they do not have enough funds to pay for that thing at the time they wrote it. The “hot check” may be considered a misdemeanor or even a felony depending on the amount the check is written for.



A student went to the grocery store, took two donuts out of the case, ate one doughnut while shopping, but only paid for one doughnut when checking out. The student was stopped at the door by security, the police came, and the student was ticketed for theft of $0.50 (yes, 50 cents).  The student had to spend $300 in court fines and class expenses to have the ticket for a .50 cent doughnut dismissed. Then the student still had to get the ticket expunged, since the police, court, store, and other agencies have record of the ticket and court proceedings. That is approximately $500 in court fees.

A student went to a high end, natural grocery store. They chose thirty two (32) items including items such as a bottle of wine, salad mix, candles, and frozen fish. They put all the items in a shopping bag and proceeded to walk out the front door as though they had paid.  The student was stopped in the parking lot by officers and arrested for a Class B theft.  The student tried to justify the theft by saying it was for a romantic anniversary dinner with their partner.  The police and store owner were not sympathetic.  The student was arrested and spent two nights in jail before calling their parents to bail them out.  It took ten (10) months and $3,000 to resolve the Class B charge for a bag of groceries valued at $75.


Note: Theft can be considered a crime of moral turpitude (meaning, involving dishonesty or fraud or conduct that is base, vile, depraved, or immoral ). For immigration purposes, theft can impact a non-citizen's immigration status.