Theft offenses in Texas are taken very seriously by law enforcement and courts alike. A conviction for a theft offense can result in severe penalties which include prison time. In this post, we’ll discuss common theft offenses in Houston and throughout Texas, as well as provide an overview of potential penalties and legal defenses.
Categories of Theft Offenses in Texas
Theft offenses in Texas are divided into multiple categories based on the value of the stolen property and the circumstances surrounding the theft. These categories include:
- Petty Theft: Involves the theft of property valued at less than $100. This is a Class C misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $500.
- Theft of $100 to $750: This is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine not exceeding $2,000.
- Theft of $750 to $2,500: This is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine not exceeding $4,000.
- Theft of $2,500 to $30,000: This is a state jail felony, punishable by 180 days to two years in state jail and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
- Theft of $30,000 to $150,000: This is a third-degree felony, punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
- Theft of $150,000 to $300,000: This is a second-degree felony, punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
- Theft of $300,000 or more: This is a first-degree felony, punishable by five to 99 years in prison and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Common Theft Offenses and Their Definitions
Below are some of the most common theft offenses in Houston and throughout Texas:
- Shoplifting: The act of stealing merchandise from a retail establishment. This is one of the most prevalent theft offenses in Texas and is often charged as a misdemeanor, depending on the value of the stolen goods.
- Burglary: The unlawful entry into a building with the intent to commit theft or another felony. Burglary can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances and the value of the stolen property.
- Robbery: Theft involving the use of force or the threat of force against the victim. Robbery is considered a violent crime and is typically charged as a second-degree felony in Texas.
- Aggravated Robbery: A more serious form of robbery that involves the use or display of a deadly weapon, or causing serious bodily injury to another person. Aggravated robbery is a first-degree felony in Texas.
- Auto Theft: The theft of a motor vehicle, such as a car, truck, or motorcycle. Auto theft is a state jail felony in Texas if the value of the vehicle is between $2,500 and $30,000.
- Theft by Check: Writing a check for goods or services without sufficient funds in the account to cover the check. Theft by check can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the value of the goods or services obtained.
- Identity Theft: The unauthorized use of someone else’s personal information for financial gain. Identity theft can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the amount of financial loss suffered by the victim.
Legal Defenses Against Theft Offenses
There are several legal defenses that can be employed to fight theft charges in Texas. Some of these defenses include:
- Lack of Intent: Demonstrating that the accused did not have the intent to deprive the owner of their property permanently or unlawfully.
- Claim of Right: Arguing that the accused had a good faith belief that they had a legal right to the property in question.
- Consent: Establishing that the property owner gave consent for the accused to take the property.
- Mistake of Fact: Asserting that the accused was mistaken about the facts surrounding the alleged theft, such as believing they were retrieving their own property.
- Duress or Coercion: Proving that the accused was coerced or forced to commit the theft under threat of harm to themselves or a loved one.
- Entrapment: Demonstrating that law enforcement officers induced the accused to commit the theft when they would not have otherwise done so.
- Insufficient Evidence: Challenging the strength of the evidence presented by the prosecution and arguing that it is not enough to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Preventing Theft Offenses
To protect yourself and your community from theft offenses, consider implementing the following strategies:
- Secure Your Property: Lock doors and windows, install security systems, and use anti-theft devices on vehicles to deter potential thieves.
- Be Vigilant: Keep an eye on your surroundings and report any suspicious activity to law enforcement.
- Educate Yourself and Others: Stay informed about local crime trends and share this information with your friends, family, and neighbors.
- Get Involved in Community Watch Programs: Participate in neighborhood watch groups to foster a sense of community and deter criminal activity.
- Protect Your Personal Information: Be cautious when sharing personal information online or over the phone, and monitor your financial accounts regularly for signs of identity theft.
Understanding the various types of theft offenses in Houston and throughout Texas is crucial for both preventing these crimes and addressing them when they occur. By familiarizing yourself with the legal definitions, potential penalties, and available defenses, you can better protect your rights and your community. If you or a loved one is facing theft charges, it is essential to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you navigate the complex legal system and build a strong defense on your behalf.