Your Experienced Legal Team | Se Habla Español 

What Is Organized Retail Theft Under Texas Law?

Under Boykin v. State, 818 S.W.2d 782, 785 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991), State v. Hardy, 963 S.W.2d 516, 520 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997), Yazdchi v. State, 428 S.W.3d 831, 837 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014), and Bryant v. State, 391 S.W.3d 86, 92 (Tex. Crim. App. 2012), when interpreting statutes, a court seeks to determine the collective intent or purpose of the legislators who enacted the legislation by focusing on the literal text of the statute and attempt to discern the fair, objective meaning of that text at the time of its enactment. If the meaning of the text when read using the established canons of construction relating to the text should have been plain to the legislators who voted on it, a court ordinarily gives effect to that plain meaning. A court must presume that every word in a statute has been used for a purpose and that each word, phrase, clause, and sentence should be given effect if reasonably possible. Words and phrases are to be read in context and construed according to the rules of grammar and common usage. Courts may consult standard dictionaries in determining the objective meaning of undefined statutory terms. If a statute’s language is ambiguous or application of its plain meaning would lead to an absurd result that the Legislature could not possibly have intended, a court may consider extratextual factors. A statute is ambiguous when it may be understood by reasonably well-informed persons in two or more different senses. A statute is unambiguous when it reasonably permits no more than one understanding.

Under Tex. Gov. Code § 311.023 and Arteaga v. State, 521 S.W.3d 329, 334 (Tex. Crim. App. 2017), extratextual factors that may be considered include: (1) the object sought to be attained by the Legislature; (2) the circumstances under which the statute was enacted; (3) the legislative history; (4) the common law or former statutory provisions, including laws on the same or similar subjects; (5) the consequences of a particular construction; (6) the administrative construction of the statute; and (7) the title or caption, preamble, and any emergency provision.  Statutory construction is a question of law that is reviewed de novo.

Under Tex. Penal Code § 31.16(b)(1) & (2), a person commits an offense if she intentionally conducts, promotes, or facilitates an activity in which the person receives, possesses, conceals, stores, barters, sells, or disposes of: (1) stolen retail merchandise; or (2) merchandise explicitly represented to the person as being stolen retail merchandise.

The legislative history of organized retail theft under Tex. Penal Code § 31.16(b)(1) & (2) shows that it was not intended to criminalize every act of shoplifting but was instead intended to target professional crime-rings involved in the large-scale theft and reselling of stolen merchandise.