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Being suspected of, or charged with, a theft crime in Texas can be an extremely serious situation. If it is not given the utmost attention, you could get convicted, lose your freedom and be ordered to pay big fines. Not only that, but you could also lose your job and your reputation. Although every case is different, this guide attempts to describe, in as straightforward a manner as possible, the crimes of theft in Texas, including the penalties, what the arrest and trial process looks like, and the significant benefits of hiring an experienced Texas theft criminal defense lawyer to fight for your rights. The right law firm has the knowledge and resources to make sure the criminal justice system treats you fairly, and the power to fight on your behalf to help you avoid getting convicted.

If you are charged with a theft crime, many people will automatically assume that you are guilty. Most people will believe that the police would have never arrested you if you were innocent. Obviously, this cannot be farther from the truth. The police are not infallible, and innocent people are suspected of crimes and arrested all the time. Even for the death penalty, a recent study has indicated that for every eight people put to death in the United States since 1970, one person has been found innocent after their execution. The bottom line is that police and prosecutors can make mistakes in arresting, charging, and convicting people of theft crimes. Fulgham Law Firm has years of experience effectively representing people accused of theft in Texas, so we understand what it takes to convince the judge and jury to view your case in a favorable light and make a decision based upon the facts of the case.

This guide will give you a solid understanding of the theft laws in Texas, including what should be done to defend you and protect your rights. You will find that one of the smartest things that you can do if charged with a crime is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney for help.

Fort Worth Texas Theft Lawyer

If you have been charged with a theft offense in Texas, then you already know that you are in a rough situation. A felony conviction can result in you being placed in prison and ordered to pay fines. The punishment can be extreme based on the circumstances. One thing is for certain – you will want an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your corner to help you fight the charges. The seasoned criminal defense lawyers at Fulgham Law Firm provide you with this theft criminal defense guide so that you are informed about theft laws, your rights as a defendant, and how to undermine the prosecution’s case against you to avert a conviction. Reach out to Fulgham Law Firm today by calling (817) 826-9905 or by contacting us online for a free consultation.

General Rules To Follow

There are some general rules to follow if you have been arrested and charged with any crime in Texas, not only theft crimes. If you follow these rules, you will have a better chance for a positive outcome in your case. It could be the difference between going free or losing your liberty and spending a significant amount of time in jail.

Don’t Talk To The Police

One of the major issues that criminal defense lawyers face is when their client has already spoken to the police before the attorney was hired. Never talk to the police without first hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer to be by your side. In almost all instances, your attorney will not want you to speak to the police at all. The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution gives people accused of a crime the right to remain silent when being questioned by the police. The police are not there to help you or to be your friend. Their job is to investigate crimes, gather evidence, and arrest people. If you are asked to come to the police station to just have a “friendly discussion” with the police about a potential crime, most likely they already believe you are a suspect and are guilty. In other words, they won’t be looking for evidence to exonerate you – they will be looking for evidence to convict you.

Don’t make the mistake of believing that if you refuse to talk to the police, you will appear guilty. No matter what you do or don’t do, it will not affect the police’s opinion of your guilt or innocence. You have a legal right in the United States to not incriminate yourself. There have been many cases in Texas over the years where innocent people have been accused of crimes by the police. If you talk to the police, even if you are innocent, they can twist your words and get you to agree to things that you should not agree to. Many innocent people have had their lives turned upside down because they spoke to the police and tried to be helpful in an investigation. If the police ask you questions, the only thing you should say to them is the following: “I will speak to you only when my attorney is present and advises me to answer your questions.”

Another mistake that people make is thinking they can “outsmart” the police and convince the police of their innocence. Don’t make this mistake. Police officers are trained interrogators. They know how to ask questions that can ensnare an unsuspecting person into incriminating themselves. Typically, every interview is recorded, so what you say might be used against you later.

Seek Legal Representation

Many people believe that you have to hire a lawyer once you are arrested. But this is not the case. The best-case scenario is to have an experienced criminal defense attorney already on retainer and ready to help at a moment’s notice. Hiring an attorney before you are arrested is a way to get in front of the investigation. They can potentially convince the police not to arrest you. Your lawyer can be an intermediary between you and them without you having to testify or even speak to the police. If your attorney aggressively investigates the issue, they might be able to uncover evidence that would convince the police that they have the wrong person. Your attorney can apply the law of Texas to your situation and convince the police that they are wasting their time pursuing you.

Don’t Talk To Anyone About The Crime

If you are a potential suspect in a theft crime, do not discuss it with anyone but a lawyer, if possible. Talking with people other than your lawyer is a big problem because those people can be potentially compelled to testify against you regarding your discussions. Your lawyer is restricted from talking to the police about what you tell them due to the attorney-client privilege. But your best friend, cousin, or neighbor does not have that protection.

Theft According To Texas Law

According to Texas law, theft basically means that you take someone’s property with the intent to keep it from them. The law specifically states that you are a thief if you are unlawfully appropriating (using) property with the intent to deprive the owner of that property. That is a simple definition, but it covers many scenarios.

Under Texas law, unlawful appropriation basically means that you are transferring or trying to transfer title (or some type of ownership interest) in property to yourself or someone else. The Texas Penal Code describes three ways in which you unlawfully appropriate something.

  • You do it without the owner’s consent
  • The property is stolen, and you use it knowing that someone else stole it
  • An undercover officer tells you that something is stolen, and you take the property because of it

You might be wondering what consent means at this point. Texas law considers consent to mean that someone who has legal authorization over the property consents to your actions. Here’s what consent does not mean:

  • You induce someone by coercion or deception
  • You get consent from someone who doesn’t have legal authorization to make decisions on the owner’s behalf
  • You get consent from someone who you know has a mental defect or disease, or who you know is intoxicated
  • You get consent from someone who has diminished capacity or cannot make rational and informed decisions regarding their property

The bottom line is that “effective consent” is when the owner of the property has agreed to the transfer of the property and was not tricked, swindled out of the property, or unable to understand what they are doing.

Possible Fine, Jail Time For Theft Conviction

Like many states, Texas categorizes its theft crimes by the value of the property that is stolen. Section 31.03(e) of the Texas Penal Code outlines the penalties for theft. The penalties are more severe as the value of the stolen property increases.

For offenses that occurred on or after September 1, 2015, the theft offense is punished according to the following scheme:

Theft Under $100

Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500.

Theft Between $100 And $749

Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. If the value of the stolen property is under $100, it is still a Class B misdemeanor if you have been previously convicted of theft or if the property that is stolen is an identification card (e.g. driver’s license).

Theft Between $750 And $2,499

Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Theft Between $2,500 And $29,999

State jail felony. Also punishable as a state jail felony:

  • theft of a firearm
  • a third theft conviction (even if the value of the stolen property on the third case is less than $2,500)
  • any theft under $20,000 if the theft is of a metal including aluminum, bronze, copper, and brass
  • an official election ballot
  • theft from a grave
  • certain thefts of livestock

The punishment for a state jail felony can include a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment ranging from 180 days to two years, or both. Moreover, a state jail felony could bump up to a third-degree felony if you used or flashed a deadly weapon during the alleged offense or had a previous felony conviction.

Theft Between $30,000 And $149,999

Third-degree felony. Certain thefts of livestock or controlled substances can be charged as third-degree felonies too. The punishment for a third-degree felony is a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment ranging from two to ten years, or both.

Theft Between $150,000 And $299,999

Second-degree felony. This includes theft of ATM machines. The punishment for a second-degree felony is a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment ranging from two to 20 years, or both.

Theft Of $300,000 Or More

First-degree felony. The punishment for a first-degree felony is a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment ranging from five to 99 years, or both.

Enhanced Theft Charges

The charges against you can be “enhanced” or increased under certain circumstances. If you do any of the following, then the charge can be bumped up to the next higher category of offense.

  • You are a public servant or public official (e.g. police officer) who uses your status as a public servant or official to accomplish the theft
  • You are a government contractor who steals from the government
  • You are a nonprofit organization who steals from an elderly person
  • You are a Medicare provider who steals from the government
  • You commit a theft through tampering with a fire exit or alarm (e.g. you deactivate the alarm), or you use a device to prevent your offense from being detected

Special Types Of Theft Under Texas Law

There are certain types of theft that fall outside the basic definition of criminal theft contained in Texas laws. These particular types of theft are described under the law in detail, including what you specifically must do to commit the offense, and what your punishment may be if convicted.

Theft Of Trade Secrets

Under Texas law, you commit the theft of trade secrets when, without the owner of the trade secret’s consent, you knowingly:

  • steal the owner’s trade secret;
  • make a copy of something representing the owner’s trade secret; or
  • disclose or communicate the owner’s trade secret

Theft of trade secrets is a third-degree felony punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence between 2 years and 10 years.

Example: A woman is a high-level executive at a health and beauty company.  Without authorization, she copies the formula for an anti-aging cream and then sells it to the company’s largest competitor. Under Texas law, the woman could be charged with theft of trade secrets.

Theft Of Services

The crime of theft of services is different from breach of contract. Specifically, if you take someone’s money based on an agreement that you will perform work for them, and you don’t do the work, you might be sued by that person for breach of contract rather than be criminally charged with the theft of services. A key difference between breach of contract and theft of services is that with theft of services, you intend to steal the person’s money. So, in order for the state to prosecute you for theft of services, they must prove that you had the criminal intent to steal someone’s money rather than perform the work.

Courts are somewhat unclear on what constitutes theft of services when it comes to contracts. In one case, a court held that if a contract is partially performed, then there is no intent by the defendant to commit theft through deception. However, in another case, a court found that criminal intent could be found in a pattern or scheme (e.g. the defendant accepts money from four different people, begins construction on each person’s home, and later ceases work on all homes, leaving each person with unfinished work). 

A conviction of theft of services carries the following penalties:

  • Under $100                                                                         Class C Misdemeanor
  • At least $100 but less than $750                                Class B Misdemeanor
  • At least $750 but less than $2,500                            Class A Misdemeanor
  • At least $2,500 but less than $30,000                      State Jail Felony
  • At least $30,000 but less than $150,000                 3rd Degree Felony
  • At least $150,000 but less than $300,000               2nd Degree Felony
  • At least $300,000 or more                                           1st Degree Felony

Example 1: You are paid in full for the work your company is scheduled to do on a renovation project. You do work for one month but then desert the project. Since you partially performed the work, you are sued for breach of contract but not criminally charged with theft of services.

Example 2: The same facts as example one. Except, in the recent past there is evidence of you starting work and then stopping prematurely for multiple clients. Because of this pattern of events, you purportedly have the intent to steal. By taking this new payment but not finishing the agreed upon service, you are sued for breach of contract and are charged with theft of services.

Unauthorized Use Of A Vehicle

Under Texas law, you commit vehicular theft if you intentionally or knowingly operate someone’s boat, airplane, or motor-propelled vehicle without their consent. As a state jail felony, the penalty for non-authorized use of a vehicle is a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment from 180 days to 2 years, or both.

Example: You break into a stranger’s car and hotwire the engine. You drive away while the owner of the car is shopping. Your intention was never to “steal” the car, only to go joyriding for a while. This is an unauthorized use of a vehicle as you intentionally took the owner’s car without their permission, regardless of your intention to return the vehicle.

Retail Theft

Retail theft or “shoplifting” is where you steal from a retail business (e.g. stealing a watch from Walmart). The offense falls under Texas’ general theft laws, which means that penalties and sentencing depend on the value of the stolen products. You can also receive enhanced penalties for preventing or attempting to prevent a retail theft detector from going off, or using something that deactivates a retail theft detector.

Further, Texas law criminalizes organized retail theft.  This occurs when you intentionally promote, facilitate, or conduct an activity that allows you to obtain, possess, store, sell, or dispose of merchandise that you know to be stolen. Penalties for organized retail theft depend on the value of the products stolen.  However, the prosecutor can seek increased penalties if they can prove that you organized, supervised, or financed others who engaged in the organized retail theft.

Penalties for conviction of retail theft and organized retail theft are the following:

  • Under $100                                                                         Class C Misdemeanor
  • At least $100 but less than $750                                Class B Misdemeanor
  • At least $750 but less than $2,500                            Class A Misdemeanor
  • At least $2,500 but less than $30,000                      State Jail Felony
  • At least $30,000 but less than $150,000                 3rd Degree Felony
  • At least $150,000 but less than $300,000               2nd Degree Felony
  • At least $300,000 or more                                           1st Degree Felony

Example 1: A woman takes a $2,500 blouse to the dressing room and puts it under her clothes.  She walks out of the store without paying.  The woman has committed a state jail felony.

Example 2: A man instructs a group of people to go into ten different stores and steal as many clothes as possible without being detected. Here, the man facilitated and organized the retail theft by the group. Prosecutors charge the man with organized retail theft with an enhanced penalty because the man was the organizer of the enterprise.

Theft Of TV Services

Under Texas law, without the authorization of the multichannel video or information services provider, you aren’t allowed to maintain a connection with the service. You also cannot tamper with any devices attached to the system. This offense can be charged as a Class C misdemeanor. But if you committed the offense in the past, then the penalty is a Class A misdemeanor.

Example: A man taps the cable lines running into his neighbor’s house and gets all the premium sports channels as a result. The man has tampered with the information services.

Cargo Theft

Cargo basically means goods or freight that is carried on an aircraft, motor vehicle, or a ship. You commit cargo theft if you knowingly or intentionally facilitate or promote an activity where you possess, store, conceal, sell or dispose of stolen cargo. You also commit cargo theft if you are employed to transport cargo, and you intentionally or knowingly fail to deliver the cargo or cause it to be broken. Penalties for cargo theft depend on the value of the cargo taken:

  • At least $1,500 but less than $10,000                                      State Jail Felony
  • At least $10,000, but less than $100,000                3rd Degree Felony
  • At least $100,000, but less than $200,000             2nd Degree Felony
  • At least $200,000 or more                                           1st Degree Felony

Example: A man is entrusted with the delivery of grocery goods from the warehouse to a grocery store. However, he drives away with the cargo. He later sells the cargo to various individuals. The man has committed cargo theft.  

Theft Of Petroleum

Petroleum theft is where, without the petroleum owner’s consent, you appropriate (use) their petroleum with the intent to deprive the owner of it. This can be done by removing, possessing, receiving, delivering, selling, purchasing, concealing, or transporting the petroleum. You could also commit this offense by tapping, drilling, or causing a hole to be drilled into a pipe, pipeline, or tank that is used for moving or storing petroleum.  Penalties for this offense depend on the total value of the petroleum product stolen:

  • Less than $10,000                                                                       State Jail Felony
  • At least $10,000, but less than $100,000                          3rd Degree Felony
  • At least $100,000, but less than $300,000                       2nd Degree Felony
  • At least 300,000 or more                                                        1st Degree Felony

Example: A man removes the petroleum tanks from a warehouse with the intent to deprive the owner of it.  He then transports it and sells it to various individuals. He has committed petroleum theft.

Mail Theft

You can be charged for mail theft in Texas if you intentionally take mail from someone else’s mailbox or house without their consent with the intent to deprive them of their mail. Penalties for mail theft depend on the amount of mail appropriated. The more people whose mail you steal, the higher the penalty:

  • Less than 10 people                                                       Class A Misdemeanor
  • At least 10 people, but less than 30                         State Jail Felony
  • 30 people or more                                                          3rd Degree Felony

Penalties are also more serious if the prosecution proves that the mail you took contained identifying information used for defrauding someone, or if you knew or should have known that the mail belonged to either a disabled person or an elderly person.

Example: A woman takes all of her neighbors’ mail from the mailboxes on the ground floor of her apartment complex. The woman intentionally took her neighbors’ mail without their consent from their mailboxes. She has committed mail theft. 

Civil Theft

In Texas, if you are accused of theft, then this means that you not only face criminal charges and penalties, but you can be held liable in a civil lawsuit for theft. Criminal penalties are pursued against you by the state prosecutor in criminal court, while a civil lawsuit is filed against you by the alleged victim in civil court. The alleged theft victim can potentially recover the following against you in a civil lawsuit:

  • Actual damages caused by the theft (e.g. the retail value of the item if not returned in sellable condition)
  • A civil penalty of up to $1,000
  • Legal fees and costs

When the accused person is a child, Texas law allows a lawsuit against the parent or legal guardian for the civil damages. But the law limits the parent’s liability to actual damages caused by the theft, with a cap of $5,000, and legal fees and costs.

Consolidation Of Theft Offenses

The following offenses fall under Texas’ theft statute:

  • Theft
  • Theft by false pretext
  • Conversion by bailee
  • Theft from the person
  • Shoplifting
  • Acquisition of property by threat
  • Swindling
  • Embezzlement
  • Extortion
  • Receiving or concealing stolen property

Theft Defenses

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can unleash several defenses in your case to combat a theft charge. Every case is different though, so what defense is used will depend upon the facts of your case. As you review these possible defenses to the crime of theft, it is important to remember that you are not required to prove anything a theft trial. The Burden of Proof always rests on the State of Texas to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt. Failure to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt will result in a Not Guilty verdict at trial.

The Taking Of Property Did Not Happen

One of the basic defenses to a theft charge is that the property in question wasn’t actually taken by someone. If the facts demonstrate that the property is still in the possession of its owner, then no one can be charged with theft.

Honest Misunderstanding

You could have had an honest misunderstanding regarding the proper ownership of the item. If you can demonstrate your mistaken belief as to who owned the property, then this could be a defense to the charge, as you wouldn’t have the intent to steal. You would have to show evidence of your intent, more so than just your word regarding your state of mind, though.

Rightful Owner Of The Property

A valid defense for theft is that you were the actual owner of the property. If there is evidence that you owned the property (e.g. a bill of sale or some type of contract), then at the very least there would be a question regarding your intent on stealing the property, as you cannot steal something which you own.


Intoxication as a defense to a crime is usually a tricky way to get out of trouble, as you cannot willfully get drunk or high and then blame your intoxication for your actions as a defense. However, if someone caused you to ingest alcohol, chemicals, or drugs, and this led you to be intoxicated and unaware of what you were doing, and you stole something at this point, then you arguably lacked the intent to steal.


You cannot be accused of stealing something you were given permission to take. For example, if a woman lets her boyfriend use her bicycle for the week, the boyfriend can never be accused of theft as long as that bicycle has been timely returned, as the boyfriend was given permission to use the bicycle.

Returning Stolen Property

Many people have the mistaken belief that if they return stolen property, then they will not be arrested and charged with theft. This isn’t true. Even after returning stolen property, you can still be charged and convicted. Still, doing so can definitely paint a more sympathetic picture to a prosecutor for purposes of a possible plea deal, and also may help with reducing the penalties in a case. This defense is similar to the defense or claim from you that the stolen item was just actually “borrowed” and not stolen. There could be facts in your case that would support this defense, especially if you were allowed to borrow the item in the past. It all relates back to proving if there was actual intent to steal the item.


You are entrapped when you are enticed by the police into committing a crime because of their coercive, forceful actions. This defense is also a difficult one to prove, but it is possible. A more obvious case of entrapment is when the police proactively approach you and get you to commit a theft, versus you approaching someone for that purpose – especially when that someone is an undercover cop who then causes you to commit the offense. So, if you were accused of stealing something, but you did so at the behest of law enforcement, you may have a defense for entrapment.

Collateral Consequences Of A Theft Conviction

If you are arrested and convicted of a theft offense, you will be punished with fines, restitution, possible jail time, community service, and parole. But there are consequences to a theft conviction that you may face outside of the criminal justice system. You may not believe these consequences are fair, but they exist, nonetheless. A conviction of a felony crime, for example, can have lifelong negative effects on you because it can remain on your record for a long time. Anyone who reviews that record for purposes of considering you for something (e.g. a job, a loan) might find that conviction to be a serious problem for your eligibility. Here’s more on what these collateral consequences entail.


A theft conviction could remain on your permanent record. Any new employer performing a background check will find your criminal theft conviction and can choose not to hire you because of it. Also, your current employer could choose to fire you if you have merely been arrested for a crime, let alone convicted. Since Texas is an “at-will” employment state, an employer can fire you for any reason or no reason, barring discrimination based on race, religion, sex, pregnancy status, sexual orientation, and national origin. Convicts are not protected against discrimination. So, you could be legally fired from your job for just being arrested for a theft crime, even if you were innocent of the crime. Many future employers also will not hire someone with a felony on their record, especially one that involves crimes of theft, fraud or moral turpitude.

Occupational Licenses

A theft conviction might affect your ability to obtain occupational licenses that are required in the state of Texas for certain professions. If the application process for the specific license requires a determination of your character, the governing body that issues the license can consider any criminal violations of moral turpitude, which includes any crimes of theft or fraud, as a disqualifier. Here are some examples of occupational licenses that might be affected by a theft conviction:

  • Auctioneers
  • Athletic trainers
  • Behavior analysts
  • Electricians
  • Midwives
  • Property tax consultants
  • Educator licenses
  • Professional licenses like an attorney or doctor


There are many things that can affect your immigration status. Being a convicted felon does not help. With a theft or fraud conviction on your record, you could be denied citizenship based upon that conviction alone. Also, there is a substantial risk of you being deported depending upon the nature of the crime. Further, if you left the United States after committing a crime, then you may not be allowed to re-enter the country based upon that conviction.

Military Service

In the past, the conventional wisdom was that the military would take just about anyone who wanted to join. This is not the case in today’s military. Any criminal conviction, not just a conviction for theft or moral turpitude, can affect your ability to join the military. A felony conviction will definitely prevent you from joining. If you are already a member of the military and are charged with theft, then the court is obligated to notify the staff advocate general or the provost marshal of the military installation to which you are assigned. At that point, it is up to your commanding officer to determine how the military will respond to the charges or conviction.

Gun Ownership

With any felony conviction or guilty plea on your record, whether it relates to theft or not, federal law dictates that you will be restricted from owning a firearm or ammunition. This is a lifetime ban on owning a gun.

Right To Vote

You do not lose your right to vote if you are convicted of a misdemeanor in Texas. You can vote while awaiting trial for any charge, even if incarcerated, as long as you have not lost your right to vote due to a prior conviction. You lose your right to vote if you are convicted of a felony. You can’t vote while incarcerated, while on probation, or while on parole. Your right to vote is automatically restored once you complete your full sentence. If your sentence is completed, including parole or probation, you may register to vote and cast a ballot.

Timeline Of Criminal Theft Case

Most people are not familiar with the criminal court process and what happens after being arrested for a charge of theft. To clarify, the process usually begins with you getting arrested for some type of theft charge. You will be taken to the police station to be processed. This involves providing personal information as well as having your fingerprints and mugshot taken. After processing, you will be put in jail until you can be seen by a judge. This could take up to 48 hours. Once you have seen a judge and had your bond set, you are eligible to post a bail bond to be released from jail. To get released, you must agree to come back to court and answer to the charges against you.

In some cases, after the arrest, you are allowed to leave the station because you will be presented with a “notice to appear” in front of the judge at a specific time. Notices to appear are usually given to people accused of misdemeanor crimes that are less serious. If you do not show up on the specified date, then a warrant will be issued for your arrest and detention.

First Hearing

The first hearing will usually take place within the first 48 hours after an arrest. At this hearing, the judge will explain the charges to you and set a monetary bail amount. Bail is not a given, but with most theft cases, a certain amount is usually granted. Once bail is secured and paid, you can leave. Having an attorney represent you at this stage can help with the process and speed up your release.

Preliminary Hearing

The preliminary hearing comes next. At this hearing, the prosecution has to produce enough evidence to show that a crime has been committed and that you are likely guilty of that crime. If your criminal defense attorney is able to successfully argue that the prosecution does not have enough evidence to support their case, or the prosecution fails to prove that they have sufficient evidence against you, then your case can be (and should be) dismissed. However, usually this does not happen at the preliminary hearing. Also, this stage of the proceedings might be waived by you at the advice of your criminal defense attorney – especially when there appears to be no chance that the judge will dismiss your case given the evidence.

Pretrial Negotiations And Plea Bargaining

After the preliminary hearing, your case will go into an investigation stage where your attorney will begin to gather evidence to help exonerate you. Also, during this time, the prosecution is required to produce to your criminal defense attorney all of the evidence that the prosecution has gathered to date.

Critically, during this time, your attorney normally has conversations with the prosecution’s office regarding any plea agreements and deals that might be on the table. With the plea agreement, you agree to plead guilty or no contest in exchange for a less burdensome punishment. Your attorney will help you understand whether this is a good idea or not, and it is always your choice to take the deal or refuse – if a deal is being offered. In other words, neither the prosecution nor you are required to agree to any plea bargain. If no plea agreement is decided upon, then your case will go to trial.

Pretrial Motions

Pretrial motions involve oral arguments in front of the judge. Eventually, after legal briefs are filed and oral arguments are made on the motions, the judge will issue a written decision. The pretrial motions are filed usually for the following issues:

  • Motion to dismiss charges due to lack of probable cause
  • Motion to dismiss due to lack of evidence
  • Motion to exclude witness testimony
  • Motion to suppress evidence

After the pretrial motions have been decided, the prosecutor’s office and your defense attorney usually continue to discuss possible plea deals. There may be more of an incentive for one side or the other to agree to a plea deal based on what evidence is admissible.

Criminal Trial

Once all the preliminary motions have been resolved, your case will be scheduled for a jury trial. Even though the U.S. Constitution provides for the right to a jury trial of your peers, you have the option for either a jury trial or a bench trial. A bench trial is when the case is presented solely in front of a judge who decides your guilt or innocence and any applicable punishment. Your lawyer can provide you with much-needed guidance on whether to pursue a jury or bench trial.

For you to be found guilty in a jury trial in Texas, the jury must reach a unanimous decision (they all must agree). If you are found not guilty, you are acquitted and should be free to go. If you are found guilty, a sentencing hearing will be scheduled where a judge or jury will determine your punishment based on the Texas Penal Code. Upon the conclusion of the trial, your defense lawyer can file several appeals in an attempt to have your conviction and penalties overturned or reduced, or for you to otherwise be granted a retrial.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I Need A Lawyer For Petty Theft Or Shoplifting Charges?

Yes, it is recommended that even for smaller, less serious theft charges, you should have a lawyer representing you. It is still important to have a professional by your side explaining the process to you and protecting your rights. A misdemeanor conviction can still have a very detrimental effect on you, given the associated fines, community service, parole, and possible jail time. Also, having a conviction on your permanent record can affect your ability to get a job among other things.

How Will Prior Theft Convictions Affect Me If I’m Charged Again?

If you have prior theft convictions and are again charged with a theft offense, your new charge will be enhanced (upgraded to a more serious charge). A more serious charge means more serious punishment.

Can I Get My Theft Charge Dismissed?

Yes, it is always a possibility to have your charges of theft dismissed due to the prosecution not having enough evidence against you. But the best course of action is to hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as you are even suspected of the crime so that your attorney can potentially convince the police to not even arrest you. In some instances, your attorney can present evidence to the police that will convince them of your innocence.

Can My Parents Or Friends Refuse To Talk To The Police About What I Tell Them?

No. In Texas, there is no communication privilege between parents and children or between you and your friends. So, anything that you tell these people about the alleged crime or about your potential alibi is fair game for the police to inquire about. Critically, if your parents or friends lie to the police, they can be charged with perjury. There is only a spousal privilege, where a spouse can refuse to testify against the defendant spouse in a criminal proceeding.

What Is The Difference Between A Misdemeanor Theft Charge And A Felony Theft Charge?

Misdemeanors and felonies are two classifications of crimes in Texas law and mostly every other state in the country. Misdemeanor charges, while still significant, are less serious than felonies. In Texas, misdemeanors are separated into 3 categories – Class C misdemeanor, Class B misdemeanor, and Class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors carry the heaviest consequences.  Felonies consist of state jail felonies, third-degree felonies, second-degree felonies, first-degree felonies, and capital felonies. Capital felonies are the most serious offenses under Texas law.

How Can I Prove My Innocence?

You don’t. In criminal law, you are deemed “innocent until proven guilty.”  It is not you who has to prove your innocence before a court of law. It is the prosecution who must prove you guilty before that court of law.  The prosecution must prove you guilty of the theft crime in question beyond a reasonable doubt.  That is the highest standard in our legal system – a very high bar to meet. A criminal defense attorney will fight on your side, emphasizing the holes in the prosecution’s argument so that they cannot meet their burden.

What Is The Difference Between Theft And Robbery?

Theft is when someone unlawfully appropriates the property of another with the intent to deprive the owner of that property. More specifically, under Texas law, a person commits a robbery if, during the commission of a theft and with an intent to obtain or maintain control of the property, they “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury to another” or they “intentionally or knowingly threaten or place another in fear of imminent bodily injury or death.” So, if you use force (or the threat of force) during the commission of a theft, then you commit a robbery. Robbery is penalized as a second-degree felony.

Fort Worth Texas Theft Defense Attorney

Getting charged with a theft offense in Texas can lead to horrible outcomes including long-term prison sentences and huge fines. With this theft charge being prosecuted against you, a lot is at stake. For this reason, you’ll want to promptly hire an experienced lawyer to defend you and protect your rights. The criminal defense lawyers at Fulgham Law Firm are well-informed, skilled and experienced at representing those in Texas who are accused of theft or other crimes. We are here for you and will work diligently to help you get the best result possible. Contact Fulgham Law Firm today by calling (817) 826-9905 or by contacting us online.