August 8, 2018
If you’re hearing these two words, you’re probably in some trouble. Not all theft cases are that dramatic, but the consequences for stealing another’s property may end up costing you more than just a bit of pocket change.
Here, we’re going to detail the basics of Texas theft charges so you can know what you’re up against if you are charged, and how you can give yourself the best chance at walking away from the courtroom without any consequences.
How Does Texas Define “Theft”?
Texas defines theft as the act of “unlawfully appropriating property with intent to deprive the owner of property.” This can be done in a variety of ways, including:
- Taking another person’s property without their consent
- Taking property that you knew was stolen
That’s right. Even if you didn’t steal an object, your knowledge that someone else stole it can result in criminal charges.
What Are the Charges for Theft in Texas?
Theft charges, which range from smaller misdemeanors to more serious felonies, largely depend on the monetary value of the items allegedly involved in the crime. Texas determines charges with these guidelines:
- $50 or less: Class C misdemeanor
- $50-$500: Class B misdemeanor
- $500-$1,500: Class A misdemeanor
- $1,500-$20,000: state jail felony
- $20,000-$100,000: third degree felony
- $100,000-$200,000: second degree felony
- Over $200,000: first degree felony
The value of the property isn’t the only factor that determines theft charges, though. Certain types of property have more than just a monetary value, and may result in more serious or additional charges. For example:
- If you allegedly steal a driver’s license, passport, or any property that provides identification, your charges are bumped up to a Class B misdemeanor.
- Stealing firearms or livestock are charged separately. Stealing a firearm that is valued at less than $20,000 is a state jail felony. The charges increase if the firearms or livestock are valued at more than $20,000.
Texas also has a list of separate charges relating to theft. Acting with intent to remove evidence of stolen property is a separate charge. Tampering with serial numbers, for example, is a class A misdemeanor. Likewise, if someone is caught organizing a string of retail thefts, they may face additional charges.
The penalties for theft will depend on the charges the defendant is up against. Misdemeanor charges will not result in more than a year behind bars – if the defendant is given any jail time at all – but fines may apply.
In addition to the criminal penalties, defendants may also have to pay restitution to victims. This restitution may be equal to the damages caused by stolen property plus an extra $1,000.
Common Defense Strategies for Theft Charges
You may not have to face the penalties that come with Texas theft charges. Remember that you are innocent until proven guilty, and a solid defense strategy can help you reach the best possible outcome.
Consult with a criminal defense lawyer about which defense strategies will work best for your theft charges.
Lack of Proof
Again, you are innocent until proven guilty. Prosecutors will bring up different pieces of evidence in an effort to prove your guilt, possibly including things like video footage or witness testimony. If you can raise doubts about these pieces of evidence, the prosecution may have nothing left to prove that you committed theft.
Did Not Know Item Was Stolen
Let’s go back to the definition of theft. Texas may charge you for theft if you are caught appropriating property that you know was stolen. However, if you can prove that you did not know the item was stolen, you may be able to reach a “not guilty” verdict.
This is especially important to know if you run a secondhand shop or thrift store. If someone comes in and sells you stolen property, you could still be charged. Make sure you have the following records to submit as evidence of your “not guilty” plea:
- Name, contact information, and physical description or identification number of the person who sells you the item(s)
- Serial number of the product and other defining characteristics
- Signed warranty from the seller that they have the right to own the property
If you do not have these items, it may be hard to argue that you didn’t know the object was stolen.
If the prosecution paints a picture that includes the time, date, and location where property was stolen, you can benefit by offering evidence that you were elsewhere. A strong alibi can unravel the prosecutor’s story and help you walk away without being convicted.
The long and short of it is that Texas takes theft charges very seriously, and you need to do so as well if you find yourself facing them. We’re going to keep saying it until it sticks: a charge is not a conviction. You can reach a positive outcome, but only if you fight back – and fight back smart.
About the Author:
Jeff Hampton has been practicing law in Texas in 2005, first in the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor, and now as a private attorney with the Hampton Eppes Law Group, protecting the rights of Texans who have suffered injury due to negligence or are facing criminal charges. His success in helping people with their legal troubles has been recognized by clients and peers alike, with a Top Attorney designation and 10/10 Superb Rating on Avvo, and a place on the National Trial Lawyers list of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers.
About the Author:
The strength of Brian S. Eppes as a lawyer is in his unique and varied background. Like many other private attorneys, at one point he worked as a prosecutor. However, he also served in George W. Bush’s White House, has helped Texas legislators to write laws, and spent time at a tax and estate planning firm. These experiences have enabled him to look at cases in a different way than his peers and find creative solutions that benefit his clients.