Theft of any kind is a crime. However, some people make a living from methodically stealing valuable items from stores and fencing them through a dispersed network of resellers. Organized retail theft is a practice common among crime organizations.
Because they use this charge to go after organized crime rings, the consequences can be dire. In Texas, they can charge an Organized Retail Theft as a misdemeanor or a felony. It would depend on the value of the items stolen and the total or repeated involvement of the accused. If they charge you with organized retail theft, the defense lawyers of Starr Law can help you build the best possible defense.
But first, let’s take a closer look at what you have just been charged with.
Understanding Organized Retail Theft
Organized retail theft can also be called organized retail crime and is sometimes shortened to ORC. It means that you are not only accused of theft but that the court believes you are either conducting a multi-theft crime spree or are involved in a network of retail theft crimes. They may be looking to catch your accomplices. They will likely be searching for additional thefts on different dates and in different stores.
In case you are unfamiliar with the process, organized retail theft involves methodically stealing high-priced items from large stores and selling the stolen goods. Often, ORC thieves will hit several different stores, stealing from each store once a month or less. They then disperse their stolen goods through a fencing network of local and online resellers.
Organized crime groups often conduct ORC. Sometimes, they even go further to include things like cargo theft (stealing from warehouses or trucks) or stealing directly from manufacturers.
Consequences of an ORC Conviction in Texas
Each state has its laws regarding organized retail theft. However, an increasing number are ramping up the potential consequences of a conviction. In Texas, they can convict you of misdemeanor or felony organized retail theft.
ORC is a misdemeanor in Texas if the stolen value is less than 2,500. It is a felony if the stolen value is greater than $2,500. If they charge you with a misdemeanor, the maximum consequences include a fine of up to $4,000 and up to 1 year of jail time.
However, values above $2,500 will result in a felony charge with increasing consequences depending on the total amount stolen.
- They will charge you with a State Jail Felony if the value stolen is between $2,500 and $30,000. This includes fines of up to $10,000 and up to 2 years of jail time.
- If the value stolen is between $30,000 and $150,000, this qualifies as a Third Degree Felony. It includes fines of up to $10,000 and up to 10 years of jail time.
- If the value is between $150,000 and $300,000, this qualifies as a Second Degree Felony. This includes fines of up to $10,000 and up to 20 years in prison.
- For total theft values greater than $300,000, this is a felony of the First Degree. It includes fines of up to $10,000 and up to life in prison.
Accused of ORC
If you are accused of stealing in an organized retail crime spree, the theft must be proven to be repeated and part of an organized plan. The burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove both that you are guilty of at least one instance of theft. Also, the theft is part of a retail crime organization that focuses on systematically stealing and reselling stolen retail goods.
Stealing once is not typically enough to convict you of ORC unless your association with a retail crime ring can be proven. This includes accepting the theft as an assignment or using a fence that is known as part of a larger organized retail theft conspiracy.
Stealing more than once may or may not constitute proof of organized retail theft. It depends on the nature and manner of the theft and any proven connection to a criminal organization.
Accused of Fencing for Organized Retail Thieves
Alternatively, they may charge you with being a fence, or reseller, in an organized retail crime ring. With the current online marketplace, it is now simple for anyone to sell potentially stolen goods as a private online seller. They can even open their own branded shop.
However, you may not know that you are selling stolen items. It is very common for organized thieves to trick an independent seller into believing they have made a legitimate business connection to source goods. This means that you may be able to prove that they use you as a fence in an organized retail crime without your knowledge.
Online Organized Retail Crime Organizations
Retail crime is also not what it was before. Criminals and courts have adapted to the potential for online criminal organizations. They recruit both knowing and unknowing participants as thieves or fences to conduct an organized retail crime. Fences are more likely to be unknowing. However, it is even possible to manipulate a thief into participating in theft more organized than they might realize.
Online contacts may feel safe, but they can be criminally connected without your knowledge.
Defending an Organized Retail Theft Charge
If they accuse you of organized retail theft, you have more options than you may realize. Starr Law can help you build a defense. It will be based on circumstances, proof, and awareness of the organization’s quality of the crime. If you have been falsely accused or were involved without your knowledge of any criminal organization, we will fight on your behalf to disprove the charge or minimize the consequences leveled against you.
Whether they accuse you of organized retail theft or fencing for an organized retail crime organization, we can build a defense on your behalf. Contact Starr Law for your initial consultation. We will help you figure out the best legal steps to take from here.