Facing suspicion or charges related to a theft crime in Texas can be grave. If not handled properly, it may result in a conviction, loss of freedom, and substantial fines. Additionally, your job and reputation could be at risk.
Although each case is unique, here we provide a straightforward overview of theft crimes in Texas, including the associated penalties, legal tips, and the significant advantages of retaining an experienced Texas theft criminal defense lawyer to advocate for your rights.
A reputable law firm possesses the knowledge and resources necessary to ensure fair treatment within the criminal justice system and the ability to defend you against conviction vigorously.
Many people assume guilt when someone is charged, believing that the police would not arrest if the person were innocent. A theft charge doesn’t automatically indicate guilt.
Law enforcement is fallible, and innocent individuals are frequently suspected and arrested for crimes. Even in the case of the death penalty, studies show that for every eight people executed in the United States since 1970, one person is exonerated after their execution.
Fulgham Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys boast years of experience effectively representing individuals accused of theft in Texas. Our Fort Worth theft criminal lawyers understand the strategies required to persuade judges and juries to consider your case favorably and make decisions based on the facts.
Avoid Talking to Police Until You’ve Hired a Lawyer
One big problem for criminal defense lawyers is when their client has already talked to the police before hiring a lawyer. It’s imperative never to speak to the police until you’ve hired an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help you. Lawyers almost always advise you not to talk to the police.
In the United States, the 5th Amendment gives people accused of a crime the right to remain silent when the police question them. You should know that the police are not there to assist you or be friendly; their job is to investigate crimes, gather evidence, and arrest people.
If the police ask you to come to the police station for a “friendly chat” about a possible crime, it could mean they already suspect you and think you’re guilty. Police don’t typically try to find evidence proving you’re innocent; they’ll look for proof to show you’re guilty.
Don’t assume that if you refuse to talk to the police, it will make you look guilty. In the United States, you have a legal right not to say anything that might make you look guilty. No matter what you do or don’t do, it won’t change the police’s opinion of whether you’re guilty or innocent.
Even if you’re innocent, talking to the police can lead to misunderstandings or make you say things that could hurt you later. If the police ask you questions, you should only say: “I will talk to you only when my lawyer is with me and tells me it’s okay to answer your questions.”
Another mistake people make is thinking they can “outsmart” the police and convince them they’re innocent. Police officers are trained in questioning people and know how to ask tricky questions that might make someone accidentally admit to something they didn’t do. They usually record these conversations, so what you say can be used against you later.
Texas law considers consent to mean that someone with legal authorization over the property consents to your actions.
It does not mean:
- You induce someone by coercion or deception.
- You get consent from someone who doesn’t have legal authorization.
- You get consent from someone who you know has a mental defect or disease or is intoxicated.
- You get consent from someone who has diminished capacity or cannot make rational and informed decisions.
Valid consent occurs when the property owner willingly agrees to the property transfer without being deceived, defrauded of their property, or incapable of comprehending the transaction.
Types of Theft in Texas
In Texas, like in most other jurisdictions, theft can be categorized into various types based on the value of the stolen property, the circumstances, and the specific elements of the crime.
The Texas Penal Code defines several different theft offenses, including:
- Petty Theft (Class C Misdemeanor):
Theft of property valued at less than $50.
- Class B Misdemeanor Theft:
Theft of property valued between $50 and $500.
- Class A Misdemeanor Theft:
Theft of property valued between $500 and $2,500.
- State Jail Felony Theft:
Theft of property valued between $2,500 and $30,000.
Theft of certain types of property regardless of value, such as firearms, livestock, and controlled substances.
- Third-Degree Felony Theft:
Theft of property valued between $30,000 and $150,000.
- Second-Degree Felony Theft:
Theft of property valued between $150,000 and $300,000.
- First-Degree Felony Theft:
Theft of property valued at $300,000 or more.
Theft of a motor vehicle.
Theft of merchandise from a retail establishment.
Theft of funds or property entrusted to an individual’s care or custody, often by an employee or someone in a position of trust.
- Theft by Check:
Writing a check with insufficient funds or a closed account.
- Credit Card Theft/Fraud:
Unauthorized use of someone else’s credit card or credit card information for financial gain.
These are general categories, and the specific penalties for theft offenses can vary based on factors such as prior criminal history, aggravating factors, and other circumstances surrounding the theft.
Penalties for theft can range from fines and probation to community service and imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense.
If you or someone you know is facing theft charges in Texas, consult an attorney who can provide guidance based on the case’s specific details and applicable laws. Legal advice can help determine the best course of action and potential defenses.
What Are the Penalties for Theft in Texas?
In Texas, theft offenses carry penalties that depend on the value of the stolen property and the nature of the crime.
Petty theft involving property worth less than $50 is a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by a fine.
As the value of the stolen property increases, so do the penalties. Class B and Class A misdemeanor thefts result in potential jail time and fines.
When property is worth between $2,500 and $30,000 or items such as firearms, livestock, an election ballot, or grave items are stolen, the charge is a state jail felony.
Felony theft, classified as third-degree to first-degree, involves higher-value property and carries more severe punishments, including potential prison sentences ranging from two to 99 years.
Aggravating factors and prior criminal history can lead to enhanced penalties, and courts may require restitution to compensate victims for the value of the stolen property.
How Do Prior Theft Convictions Affect a New Charge in Texas?
Legal consequences can vary depending on the specific details of your case, and it’s crucial to consult with an attorney for advice tailored to your situation.
In Texas, having a prior theft conviction on your record can impact how a new theft charge is treated. Texas has a “three-strikes” law, often called the “habitual offender” law, which increases the penalties for repeat offenders. The specific consequences of a new charge will depend on factors like the severity of the current offense and the timing of your previous conviction.
Here are some general guidelines:
- Misdemeanor Theft: The penalties may be enhanced if you have a prior theft conviction and are charged with a misdemeanor theft offense. For example, a Class B misdemeanor theft charge could be elevated to a Class A misdemeanor, which carries more severe penalties.
- Felony Theft: If you have a prior theft conviction and are charged with felony theft, the consequences can be more severe. The presence of a previous conviction may result in a higher-level felony charge, leading to longer prison sentences and higher fines.
- Repeat Offender Enhancements: Texas law allows for enhancements based on prior convictions. For example, a second theft offense could be charged as a state jail felony, and a third or subsequent offense could be a third-degree felony.
- Collateral Consequences: Besides legal penalties, having a criminal record can have various collateral consequences, such as difficulties finding employment, housing, or securing loans.
- Probation Violation: If you were on probation for your prior theft conviction, a new theft charge may result in a probation violation, leading to further legal consequences.
Consult with a criminal defense attorney familiar with Texas law to understand how your circumstances can affect your case. An attorney can help you assess the potential consequences, develop a defense strategy, and work to mitigate the impact of a new charge, if possible.
Do You Need a Lawyer for Theft Charges in Texas?
Seek legal representation when facing criminal charges.
Here are some reasons to hire a lawyer:
- Legal Skill: Criminal defense attorneys know the legal system, including Texas criminal laws and procedures. They can guide your rights, potential defenses, and the best course of action for your case.
- Defense Strategy: An experienced attorney can assess the evidence against you, identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, and develop a strong defense strategy tailored to your situation.
- Negotiation Skills: Attorneys can negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf to potentially have charges reduced or dismissed, seek favorable plea deals, or advocate for alternative sentencing options.
- Protection of Rights: Your lawyer will ensure that your constitutional rights are protected throughout the legal process, including your right to remain silent, your right to a fair trial, and your protection against self-incrimination.
- Reduced Penalties: In many cases, an attorney can work to minimize the potential consequences of a theft charge, such as lowering fines, probation periods, or jail time.
- Knowledge of Diversion Programs: Depending on the circumstances and jurisdiction, a lawyer may be able to help you explore diversion programs or pretrial intervention options that can lead to the dismissal of charges upon successful completion.
- Peace of Mind: Legal representation can provide peace of mind during a stressful and complicated legal process, ensuring your interests are well represented.
Theft charges in Texas can range in severity from misdemeanors to felonies, and the potential consequences can vary widely depending on the specifics of your case.
Even if you believe your case is straightforward, consulting with an attorney is wise to ensure your rights are protected and that you have the best possible outcome.
If you cannot afford an attorney, you may be eligible for public defender services, but it’s still crucial to have legal representation to navigate the legal system effectively. Always consult with an attorney for guidance specific to your situation.
Call Us to Fight Your Texas Theft Crime Case
Call us for your free and confidential consultation with our skilled Texas theft attorneys.
Call us right now to get help: (817) 877-3030.
We’ve helped hundreds of Texans and can help you with your theft charge. Call today for a free consultation to help you decide what to do next. Fulgham Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys serve the Fort Worth, Arlington, and Tarrant County areas.
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.