Theft is Texas is the “unlawful appropriation of property with the intent to deprive the owner of property”. Basically, taking something that is not yours, you know it’s not yours, and your intent is to take that away from the actual owner.
WHAT DOES DEPRIVE MEAN?
According to the Penal Code, it means:
- to withhold property from the owner permanently or for an extended period of time that a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the item is lost to the owner.
- To restore property only upon payment of some sort of compensation or reward, or
- To dispose property in a manner that makes recovering the property by the owner unlikely.
WHAT IS EFFECTIVE CONSENT?
Effective consent includes consent by a person who is legally authorized to act for the owner. Consent is not effective if:
- Induced by deception or coercion
- Consent is given by a person the actor knows is not legally authorized to act for the owner
- Consent is given by a person who by reason of youth, mental disease or defect, or intoxication is known by the actor to be unable to make reasonable property dispositions
- Consent is given solely to detect the commission of an offense, OR
- Consent is given by a person who by reason of advanced age is known by the actor to have a diminished capacity to make informed and rational decisions about the reasonable disposition of property.
You can see the entire Theft statute here: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/PE/htm/PE.31.htm
THEFT PUNISHMENT RANGES
Theft offenses are classified based on the value of whatever was stolen, or the value of the services that were performed. The state can rely on the fair market value of the property or the replacement value.
- Class C Misdemeanor – Theft of $.01 – $100 – Punishable by a fine up to $500
- Class B Misdemeanor – Theft of $100 – $750 – Punishable up to 6 months in jail and a max fine of $2000
- Class A Misdemeanor – Theft of $750 – $2500 – Punishable up to 1 year in jail and a max fine of $4000
- State Jail Felony – Theft of $2500 – $30,000 – Punishable 6 months to 2 years in a State Jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
- 3rd Degree Felony – Theft of $30,000 – $150,000 – Punishable 2-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- 2nd Degree Felony – Theft of $150,000 – $300,000 – Punishable 2-20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- 1st Degree Felony – Theft of over $300,000 – Punishable 5 -99 years or life prison and a fine up to $10,000
Theft cases can be enhanced by previous convictions. Two prior misdemeanor convictions can result in an individual being charged with a felony even for a misdemeanor amount.
POSSIBLE THEFT DEFENSES
Usually the two defenses that we see most often are:
- Lack of Intent – Many times individuals take things by mistake, with no intent to steal. I have had many cases where individuals are shopping, and accidently forget to scan an item when paying, or where individuals simply forget they are holding an item and past the point of sales. In these cases its very important to have an attorney who can use the resources available (camera footage, medical records showing memory issues, etc) to show that the intent to steal was simply not there.
- Consent by Owner – If someone lets you borrow something it isn’t stealing. I have also had cases where someone lets a friend or family member borrow an item, and after they have a disagreement, report the item as being stolen. This is a joint defense that is wrapped into intent as well. If you don’t have intent to steal, and the owner of the item let you borrow it, then it isn’t theft. These cases are very fact specific, so please call me with any specific questions at 713-222-2828.
I AM GUILTY OF THEFT, IS IT STILL POSSIBLE TO GET THE CASE DISMISSED?
The #1 goal is to keep this case off of your record no matter what. Theft is absolutely one of the worst types of cases you can have on your record.
Theft cases are common, and unfortunately what might have been a split second bad decision can affect you for the rest of your life. No one (including apartments, jobs, schools) likes a thief, and even if you are a good person (which most people charged with this crime are), a theft conviction can follow you forever. When jobs, apartments, schools etc. find out about a theft conviction they judge you, and you might never get the chance to explain what really happened, or why you did what you did. So it is very important to protect yourself whether you are guilty or not.
You need a good attorney who will fight for you and do everything possible to avoid a conviction. Many times, individuals steal because they have personal problems or are suffering from depression at the time. I will do everything possible to make the DA understand your situation and use the truth to help your case.
In the event your case is difficult to defend, mitigation becomes key. I will talk to the state and try to work something out that will not negatively affect you in the future. Many defendants can enter programs that can lead to a dismissal, or can take classes to show that they know they messed up. Sometimes defendants can earn dismissals based on their actions post arrest.
Every case is different, and a lot depends on what was stolen, how much it was worth, whether it was shoplifting or an employee theft, and your prior criminal record. Give me a call if you have specific questions and we can work through it.