While many states have separate statutes covering grand theft auto, Texas is unique in that auto theft is not covered by a specific statute. So, depending on the circumstances and nature of the alleged offense, you may be charged under several different statutes.
Because Texas auto theft crimes can be charged as several types of offenses, the laws surrounding auto theft can quickly become complex.
Considerations (whether the owner of the vehicle was present and the value of the auto involved, for example) are made when deciding whether auto theft will be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. Sentences range from probation to years behind bars.
Grand Theft Auto in Texas
Grand theft auto is defined as taking someone else’s vehicle with the intent to permanently keep it. You could also be accused of grand theft auto if you purchase a car without a proper title, fail to file paperwork upon purchase or receipt of an auto, or if you fail to return a rental.
There is no specific law addressing grand theft auto in Texas, so this offense is prosecuted under Texas’s general theft statute. The penalty solely depends on the value of the allegedly stolen vehicle.
You can expect the following sentencing and penalties for theft:
- Less than $500: Class B misdemeanor; up to 180 days in jail, up to $2,000 fine
- $500-$1,500: Class A misdemeanor; up to one year in jail, up to $4,000 fine
- $1,500-$20,000: State jail felony; 180 days – 2 years in state prison, up to $10,000 fine
- $20,000-$100,000: Third-degree felony; 2-10 years in prison, up to $10,000 fine
- $100,000-$200,000: Second degree felony; 2-20 years in prison, up to $10,000 fine
- $200,000+: First-degree felony; 5-99 years in prison, up to $10,000 fine
Auto theft offenders are often required to pay restitution to the victim equivalent to the auto’s market price or replacement value plus up to $1,000 for the trouble.
Texas Carjacking Charges
Carjacking is when someone takes a vehicle from the owner or driver using force or the threat of force. In Texas, carjacking is prosecuted under the state’s robbery statutes.
A Texas robbery equates to second-degree felony charges, which are punishable by 2-20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Aggravating factors, such as the use of a deadly weapon or concealment of one’s identity, elevate the charge to aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony which can land you up to 99 years in the slammer and that $10,000 fine.
Joyriding in Texas
Joyriding entails operating an auto without the owner’s consent, but considered a lesser crime than grand theft because there is an intent to return the auto to its owner. In other words, if you “borrow” a car without asking, you could face charges for joyriding.
The official charge is unauthorized use of a vehicle, which is a state jail felony carrying 180 days to 2 years maximum in a Texas state prison. You may still be held liable for the fine of $10,000.
It may come as a surprise, but prosecutors often have difficulty proving a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt when it comes to Texas auto theft charges.
There are a number of viable defense strategies to help your case, and with the proper guidance and representation, you may be able to have your charges reduced or altogether dropped. Reach out to an experienced Fort Worth auto theft defense attorney to learn more about how.
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.