If you have ever walked into a retail store you have seen, and most likely used, a self-checkout register. Self-checkout registers are convenient and efficient, however, they have also made it easier in recent years for customers to commit an offense commonly referred to as “price tag switching.” While switching price tags is not limited to self-checkout registers, the self-serve system has made it easier for customers to alter or tamper with price tags in an attempt to fraudulently pay less money for an item. Here’s a look at price tag switching charges in Fort Worth and Texas, including the crime, the consequences and real-life examples of price switching.
Price tag switching — formally known as the fraudulent destruction, removal, or concealment of writing — occurs when an individual attempts to purchase an item at a discounted price, or return an item for more money than it is worth, by tampering with the price tag. The offense of fraudulent destruction, removal, or concealment of writing is codified under 32.47 of the Texas Penal Code. This statute makes it illegal for a customer to destroy, remove, conceal, alter, substitute, or otherwise impair the verity, legibility, or availability of a writing, other than a governmental record.
For purposes of this offense “writing” includes:
In other words, if you are accused of switching price tags in Texas, you will be charged with the offense of “fraudulent destruction, removal or concealment of writing.” That’s just a very formal, legal way of referring to price tag switching charges in Fort Worth.
In the eyes of lawmakers, switching price tags is equivalent to shoplifting or taking money from the register – but that wasn’t always the case. On Sept. 1, 2019, the 86th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 427, making the punishment for price tag switching the same as shoplifting or property theft. Prior to House Bill 427, the punishment for price tag switching was a Class A misdemeanor. The value of the item a customer tampered with was not taken into account nor was the loss to the business owner. Now, under the new law, the punishment is determined by the disparity between the price marked and the price paid for an item. Although unlikely, a defendant could potentially face up to 99 years in prison for fraudulently underpaying for an item or items.
While 99-year long prison sentences for price tag switching are few and far between, the possibility remains. The punishment for price tag switching varies drastically, from a Class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony, depending on the difference between the price marked and the price paid. A defendant faces a:
Defendants have made headline news, nationwide, for switching out price tags to fraudulently save money. Here’s a look at some real examples of price tag switching charges in Texas:
When facing a fraudulent destruction, removal, or concealment of writing offense, it’s crucial to have a tenacious and skilled defense attorney representing you. Experience matters. Price tag tampering charges come with negative repercussions and the possibility of steep prison time. An experienced criminal defense attorney will seek an outcome that does not result in a conviction or that results in being charged with a lesser offense.
The lawyers at Varghese Summersett understand the importance of keeping a charge of fraudulent destruction, removal, or concealment of writing off an individual’s criminal record and we will strive to do just that. We have vast experience handled all types of theft accusations and have a record of exceptional results. Call today for a free consultation with an experienced Fort Worth criminal defense attorney.