In Texas, there are numerous criminal offenses that fall under the broad category of theft, ranging from shoplifting and larceny to bounced checks and purchasing stolen property. The severity of the penalties can range from small fines to prison sentences. The penalties typically depend on the amount/value of items stolen.
According to Texas law, someone commits theft if they illegally acquire property with the intent to “deprive the owner of the property.” Theft is when someone takes something that doesn’t belong to them without the owner’s permission or any other legal justification, and they have no intention of returning the item to the owner at the time of the offense.
A person may steal services (such as labor), real property (such as land), personal property (such as jewelry, a car, or money), and documents (title to land).
Taking something and returning it for a reward is also classified as theft in Texas.
Georgetown Theft Attorney | Williamson County, TX
Convictions for theft crimes carry many penalties the least of which are the criminal penalties. Theft offenses are almost always misdemeanors, but a conviction for even a low-value theft can have a lifelong impact on you socially, leading to struggles leasing or renting a home and attaining and maintaining gainful employment.
If you’re convicted of a theft crime, you may face some jail time and monetary fines, but the most significant penalty is having a record of a theft conviction following you around for the rest of your life. To have a skilled defense lawyer advocate aggressively on your behalf, contact The Law Office of Jackson F. Gorski today at 512-960-4646 . Defense attorney Jackson F. Gorski is prepared to take your call.
Law Office of Jackson F. Gorski has offices in Austin and Georgetown but accepts clients throughout several counties in Texas including Travis County, Williamson County, Bell County, Bastrop County, Burnett County, Hays County, Caldwell County, Blanco County, Lee County, Milam County, Hays County, and Caldwell County.
- Types Of Theft
- Crimes Related To Theft
- Charging Someone With Theft
- Classifying Theft Crimes
- Enhanced Penalties for Theft
- Possible Defenses for Theft
- Additional Resources
There are four common ways people commit theft in Texas.
- Shoplifting – Taking merchandise out of a store without paying for it or without paying the store the full value. Along with taking items, shoplifting also includes swapping the tags to pay a lower price when checking out.
- Bad checks – Checks written against closed accounts or accounts that do not have enough funds to cover the check’s value. People have ten days to reimburse the merchant after writing a bad check. Under Texas criminal law, the fact that the check was written on a closed account alone constitutes proof of theft.
- General theft– Anytime a person either steals another person’s property, accepts stolen property, or conceals stolen property, they could face theft charges.
- Buying or accepting stolen property – Anyone who has stolen property in their possession, even if they did not steal it, may be charged with and found guilty of theft crimes in Texas. In addition, receiving stolen property carries penalties just as severe as theft.
Texas law lists several other crimes related to theft. In addition to ordinary theft, theft of goods and services may include the following:
- Organized shoplifting;
- Theft of cargo;
- Check fraud; and
- Theft of trade secrets
In charging theft, the police must establish both that 1) the defendant acted with criminal intent—meaning they knew the object belonged to someone else; 2) that they didn’t have their consent to take it; and 3) that they actually had possession of the object. Physical evidence, such as security camera footage (in a case of shoplifting) or statements from a witness, an accomplice, or the defendant, can be used by the police and prosecution.
The value of the goods or services taken, or the type of property taken, are used to categorize theft offenses. Possible punishments include charges such as a first-degree felony or a lesser misdemeanor charge. A judge also has the discretion to order alternate penalties, such as restitution or fines.
Class C Misdemeanor
The theft is considered a class C misdemeanor if the value of the stolen goods or services is less than $100. A class C misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $500 but not by imprisonment.
Class B Misdemeanor
Theft is considered a class B misdemeanor if:
- The value of the property stolen is more than $100 but less than $750;
- The value of the property stolen is less than $100, but the defendant has previously been convicted of theft; or
- The stolen property is a driver’s license or another identification card.
A class B misdemeanor carries a maximum fine of $2,000 and a maximum sentence of 180 days in jail, or both.
Class A Misdemeanor
Theft is considered a class A misdemeanor if the value of the taken goods or services is $750 or more but less than $2,500. A class A misdemeanor carries a maximum fine of $4,000 and a maximum sentence of one year in jail or both.
State Jail Felony Theft
Certain theft crimes are severe enough to be classified as state jail felonies.
Theft is a state jail felony if:
- The stolen goods or services have an estimated value of $2,500 or more but under $30,000;
- The stolen property is a firearm, an election ballot, certain livestock, or metals (aluminum, copper, brass, and copper);
- Property is taken from a human corpse or grave; or
- The value of the stolen goods is less than $2,500 in value, but it is the defendant’s third or subsequent theft offense
The maximum penalty for state jail felony theft is $10,000 in fines, 180 days to two years in prison, or a combination of the two. If the offender used or displayed a deadly weapon during the crime or had prior felonies, the theft is bumped up to a 3rd-degree felony.
Third-Degree Felony Theft
Theft is considered a third-degree felony in Texas if:
- The stolen goods or services have a value of at least $30,000 but not more than $150,000;
- The stolen property is a particular kind of livestock valued at less than $150,000; or
- The theft was a controlled substance valued at less than $150,000 taken from a commercial building where controlled substances are typically stored.
A third-degree felony is punishable by a fine of no more than $10,000, two to ten years in prison, or both.
A theft crime is a second-degree felony if:
- The stolen goods or services are worth at least $150,000 but not more than $300,000; or
- An ATM or its contents are worth less than $300,000.
A second-degree felony is punishable by a fine of no more than $10,000, two to 20 years in prison, or both.
Theft is classified as a first-degree felony if the value of the stolen goods or services is $300,000 or higher. A first-degree felony is punishable by a fine of no more than $10,000, five to 99 years in prison, or both.
Enhanced Penalties for Theft
Penalties could be enhanced because of certain factors. The following conditions will raise a theft penalty to the next level (e.g., a third-degree felony to the level of a second-degree felony):
- The stolen property was under the control of a public employee;
- The person in charge of the stolen property was engaged in business with the government;
- The owner of the stolen property was a non-profit organization or a senior citizen at least 65 years of age or older;
- The stolen property was under the control of a Medicare provider; or
- While committing the theft, the offender either made the fire alarm go off or kept it from going off.
Possible Defenses for Theft
There are several possible defenses to a theft charge that a qualified criminal law attorney can argue. Some possible defenses include the following:
- The accused did not genuinely think they were stealing the item;
- The accused is not aware that the property has been stolen; or
- The accused was not aware that the property was stolen by someone else.
Texas Statutes: Theft – Access the official website for the Texas Statutes to view information regarding theft. You can read penalties for the offense.
Automobile Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority – Access the official website for The Automobile Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority (ABTPA) to learn how to protect your vehicle.
Austin Theft Lawyer | Travis County, TX
If you have been charged with theft in Texas, do not take it lightly because you can face serious consequences. A conviction means possible jail time and a criminal record. Don’t let prosecutors pressure you to give up your rights.
The Law Office of Jackson F. Gorski has represented hundreds of Texans arrested for theft. He can do the same for you. Call Austin criminal defense lawyer Jackson F. Gorski at 512-960-4646 today.
The Law Office of Jackson F. Gorski has offices in Austin and Georgetown, TX.