Someone commits a theft in Texas if that person “unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.” If you are charged with any theft crime in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you must discuss your case as quickly as you can with a Dallas criminal defense attorney.
What constitutes theft in Texas? What are the penalties for a conviction? If you are charged with a theft crime, what are your rights, and what steps will you need to take? If you’ll keep reading, you will learn the answers, and you will also learn where to turn for the legal help you may need.
Theft in Texas includes receiving stolen property, swindling, extortion, and embezzlement. Theft can apply to cash, personal property, real estate, documents, and services. Additionally, Texas aggressively enforces the laws against other, related crimes including but not limited to:
- intellectual property theft
- cargo theft
- theft by check
How Does Texas Categorize Theft Crimes?
Texas, like almost all states, classifies smaller theft crimes as misdemeanors and more severe theft offenses as felonies. Theft is charged as a Class C misdemeanor when the stolen items or services are valued below $100. Convictions are penalized with fines rather than jail time.
Theft is charged as a Class B misdemeanor when the stolen items or services are valued at more than $100 but below $750, or if the stolen items or services are valued below $100 but the defendant has a previous theft conviction, or if the item is a driver’s license or other ID card.
The penalties for a Class B misdemeanor conviction may include a maximum $2,000 fine and/or jail for up to 180 days.
Theft is charged as a Class A misdemeanor when the stolen items or services are valued at or above $750 but below $2,500. Penalties for a Class A misdemeanor conviction may include up to a year in jail and/or up to a $4,000 fine.
When Is Theft a State Jail Felony?
Theft is classified as a state jail felony when the stolen items or services are valued at or above $2,500 but under $30,000, or if the stolen items or services are valued below $2,500 but the defendant has two or more previous theft convictions, if the item was taken from a corpse or a grave, or if the item is a voting ballot, a firearm, or certain metals or livestock.
State jail felony convictions may be penalized with 180 days in jail or as much as two years in custody and/or a fine of up to $10,000. The charge becomes a felony in the third degree if a deadly weapon was used or brandished during the theft or if the offender has a prior felony conviction.
When Is Theft a Felony in the Second or Third Degree?
Theft is charged as a third-degree felony when the stolen items or services are valued at or above $30,000 but under $150,000, if the property is livestock worth below $150,000, or if the stolen item is a controlled substance worth under $150,000, but it was stolen at a commercial location where such substances are normally stored (such as a pharmacy).
Theft is charged as a felony in the second degree when the stolen items or services are valued at or above $150,000 but under $300,000 or if the stolen item is an ATM machine or its cash and are valued below $300,000.
Penalties for a third-degree felony conviction may include two to ten years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. The penalty for a second-degree felony conviction is two to twenty years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
When Is Theft a Felony in the First-Degree?
Theft is charged as a first-degree felony when the value of the items or services that were stolen is at least $300,000. The penalties for a conviction may include a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison term of five to ninety-nine years.
In any theft case, the charge may be increased one level (from a felony in the third degree to the second degree, for example) if the stolen cash, items, or services were under the control of:
- a public employee
- a government contractor
- someone 65 years of age or older
- a nonprofit organization
- a Medicare provider
Additionally, a theft charge is increased one level if the perpetrator of the theft either caused a fire alarm to set off or stopped a fire alarm from setting off. Enhanced penalties may also be imposed for stopping or trying to stop a retail theft detection alarm from setting off.
How is Auto Theft Handled in Texas?
Auto theft in Texas is usually charged as the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, a state jail felony punishable upon conviction with 180 days in jail to two years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
However, if the value of a stolen vehicle exceeds $30,000, the charge may be felony theft in the third degree and punishable upon conviction with two to ten years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
If you are charged with any vehicle theft in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you must be represented by a Dallas theft crimes attorney.
Do Theft Offenders Have Civil Liability?
In addition to the criminal penalties, those who are convicted of theft crimes, including shoplifting, may be held liable by a civil court. Theft victims may sue for:
- the retail amount of the stolen item if the item isn’t returned in its original condition
- a civil fine of up to $1,000
- legal costs and fees
If the perpetrator of the theft is a minor, the minor’s parent or guardian may be held liable for damages resulting from the theft (those damages are capped at $5,000) along with legal costs and fees, but no civil fine will be imposed.
Could You Be Wrongly Accused of Theft?
More than 496,000 thefts were reported in Texas in 2019 – the most recent year that statistics are available – and that figure does not include vehicle thefts. Clearly, with so much theft activity, an innocent person could easily wind up facing a theft charge in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Whether you are completely innocent of a theft or guilty as charged, if you are arrested and prosecuted for theft in the State of Texas, you must be represented by a Dallas criminal defense attorney, and you must contact that attorney as soon as possible after the arrest.