Theft is one of the most common property crimes, but nevertheless is taken very seriously in the state of Texas. Even minor offenses can result in lengthy prison sentences, hefty fines, and additional civil penalties. Moreover, you’ll be left with a criminal record that will come back to haunt you long after any sentence is complete.
How Texas Law Defines Theft
Texas law defines theft as taking property, services, or anything of value with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. Selling or receiving goods that you know to be stolen is also defined as theft.
In Texas, failure to perform an affirmative act that proves the item being sold or transferred is not stolen could also be considered theft. For example, if you buy a car, you need to ask for a properly executed certificate of title to verify that it isn’t stolen. Neglect to do this and it’s possible that you’ll face theft charges – even if you’re unaware that the car is stolen.
Finally, writing fraudulent checks or checks that you know you do not have the funds for is considered theft by check.
Criminal Penalties for Theft
Like other states, Texas classifies theft offenses by the value of the property or services stolen, with enhanced penalties for certain types of property such as livestock and firearms. The below criminal penalties are used as sentencing guidelines for theft crimes.
Class C Misdemeanor Theft
Theft is classified as a Class C misdemeanor if the value of the property or services taken is less than $50. This is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and does not involve any jail time.
Class B Misdemeanor Theft
Theft is classified as a Class B misdemeanor if the value of the stolen property or services is between $50 and $499, or if the stolen property is a driver’s license or other form of identification. This is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000.
Class A Misdemeanor Theft
Theft is considered a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the stolen property or services is between $500 and $1,499. This is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000.
State Jail Felony Theft
Theft is considered a State Jail felony if the value of the stolen property or services is between $1,500 and $19,999. Additionally, theft is automatically a State Jail felony if the stolen property is a firearm or certain types of livestock valued at under $20,000. This is punishable by 180 days – 2 years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Third-Degree Felony Theft
Theft is considered a Third-degree felony if the stolen property is valued between $20,000 and $99,999, or certain types of livestock valued at under $100,000. This is punishable by 2-10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.
Second-Degree Felony Theft
If the value of the stolen property is between $100,000 and $199,000, theft is classified as a Second-degree felony. This is punishable by 2-20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.
First-Degree Felony Theft
Theft is considered a First-degree felony in Texas if the value of the stolen property or services is $200,000 or more. This is punishable by 5-99 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.
Civil Penalties for Theft in Texas
In addition to the criminal penalties for theft, you may also be held civilly liable to the victim of theft in the state of Texas. First, you will be required to return any stolen property. If the property is damaged, or if you stole services that cannot be returned, you will be required to reimburse the victim for the value of the stolen property. You will also be liable for a civil penalty of $1,000.
If you are the parent or guardian of a minor who commits theft, you may also be held civilly liable for the damages. However, monetary damage is limited to the actual damages caused by the theft, with a cap of $5,000, and there is no civil penalty.
Facing Texas Theft Charges?
The bottom line is that theft is taken very seriously in the state of Texas, with harsh criminal and civil penalties and long-lasting consequences. If you are facing theft charges, you should fight back to give yourself the best chance of beating your charges.
A knowledgeable Texas criminal defense attorney can help to make sure your rights are protected. He or she will be able to leverage their experience to craft the strongest possible defense for you. It may even be possible to get your case thrown out entirely, depending on your specific circumstances.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.