When most people think of theft offenses, shoplifting comes to mind. However, there are many different types of theft crimes that carry significant and lasting consequences for those convicted of such offenses. If Texas law enforcement has arrested you for a theft offense, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and anxious about how this incident will impact your freedom and future. First, you should contact a skilled and experienced Pearland criminal defense attorney to discuss your situation. Your lawyer will help you understand what to expect at every stage of the criminal justice process and walk you through the possible outcomes. In the meantime, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with how theft charges are handled in Texas and what the penalties are for theft convictions. This post will explore the connection between the severity of the theft charge and the market value of the property that was allegedly stolen.
Understanding the Legal Definition of Theft in Texas
Essentially, theft involves the intentional taking of property belonging to someone else. Under Title 7, Section 31.03 of the Texas Penal Code, “A person commits an offense [theft] if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.” Unlawful appropriation of property occurs when the owner has not given their consent or the defendant intentionally appropriates property they know has been stolen by another. According to this legal definition, a person can face many types of theft offenses, including shoplifting, receiving and retaining possession of stolen property, stealing a firearm, and other situations in which you attempt to deprive the rightful owner of their property.
Theft Offenses Correspond to the Property’s Fair Market Value
Theft crimes operate slightly differently from other criminal offenses, as the same action can lead to a misdemeanor or felony charge—depending on the market value of the item or object at the center of the incident. Title 7, Section 31.08 of the Texas Penal Code defines “value” as “the fair market value of the property or service at the time and place of the offense; or, if the fair market value of the property cannot be ascertained, the cost of replacing the property within a reasonable time after the theft.” In most theft-related cases, prosecutors reference the highest consumer selling price, which often elevates the criminal charge and potential penalties. Consequently, if someone stole a used iPad from another person, the selling price would be considerably lower than an iPad purchased from the Apple store. The difference between the price point of a new item and a used item can be substantial and heavily influence whether the state will charge you with a misdemeanor or felony offense. It’s essential to work with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer who will push for an accurate valuation of the property.
Levels of Theft Offenses in Texas
Under Texas law, theft crimes range from Class C misdemeanor offenses to first-degree felony offenses, depending on the property’s value. Penalties typically include costly fines and jail or prison time for some higher-level crimes. The lowest-level theft charge is a Class C misdemeanor, which applies to instances involving the theft of property valued below $100. A Class C misdemeanor conviction does not usually involve jail time, but you will likely be compelled to pay up to $500 in fines. A theft charge becomes a state jail felony when the property’s value is between $2,500 and $30,000. Individuals may also face a state jail felony if they stole the item (regardless of value) from a grave, stole a firearm, stole an official ballot, or stole something valued less than $2,500 but had previously been convicted two or more times of any theft offense. A state jail felony conviction carries a jail sentence lasting between 180 days and two years and a fine of up to $10,000. The most serious theft offense carries first-degree felony charges. These offenses apply to theft crimes involving property whose value exceeds $300,000. If convicted, you could spend anywhere between five to 99 years in prison and face a $10,000 fine, among other restrictions to your freedom and future. It’s important to note that other circumstances may elevate a theft charge to the next level, such as theft crimes against someone over the age of 65 or a nonprofit organization.
Contact a Pearland Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Facing any type of criminal charge in Texas is a serious matter. It’s always in your best interest to contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to ensure your rights remain protected at all times. Remember, you do not have to go through this stressful experience alone. Enlisting the legal representation of an experienced attorney can give you the clarity and confidence you need to move forward. Your attorney will work hard to assess the details of your case and pursue the most favorable outcome possible.
If you are facing theft charges in the Pearland or South Houston area, call the Law Offices of Keith G. Allen, PLLC, at (832) 230-0075 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated and experienced criminal defense lawyer.