We all make mistakes. Good people can find themselves in bad situations, and it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and concerned about how a misunderstanding or momentary lapse of judgment will impact your life. When most people think of theft crimes, their minds jump right to shoplifting. Although shoplifting is one of the most well-known types of theft, there are several other theft charges that someone could face in Texas, such as fraud, forgery, receiving stolen property, auto theft, and more. If Texas law enforcement has arrested you for a theft-related offense, contact an experienced Brazoria County criminal defense attorney right away. Your lawyer will assess the details of your arrest and situation and help you determine the most strategic path forward. Let’s look at some potential penalties you could face for a theft conviction in the greater Pearland area.
How Texas Laws Define Theft
Like most states, Texas takes theft crimes seriously. Under Title 7, Section 31.03 of the Texas Penal Code, “A person commits [theft] if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.” The statute proceeds to clarify that appropriation of property is unlawful if “(1) it is without the owner’s effective consent; (2) the property is stolen and the actor appropriates the property knowing that it was stolen by another; or (3) property in the custody of any law enforcement agency was explicitly represented by any law enforcement agent to the actor as being stolen and the actor appropriates the property believing it was stolen by another.” Essentially, you may face criminal charges if you take something that does not rightfully belong to you without obtaining the owner’s consent. For instance, a shoplifter removes property without compensating the retailer—the rightful owner—or obtaining their consent.
Understanding Theft Penalties in Texas
Those facing theft charges for the first time may fear that they will face hefty penalties, like months or years behind bars. However, it’s important to understand that Texas criminal penalties are more nuanced and rely on several factors. When it comes to theft crimes, the material value of the stolen property influences the severity of the punishment. Below is a brief overview of how the property’s value determines whether you must pay fines, serve a jail sentence, or face additional consequences.
Misdemeanor Theft Charges
If the stolen property is valued below $100, you will likely face a Class C misdemeanor charge. If convicted, you can expect to pay a fine of up to $500. An offense is considered a Class B misdemeanor if the property is valued between $100 and $750. A conviction could result in a county jail sentence of up to 180 days, up to $2,000 in fines, or both. For property valued between $750 and $2,500, prosecutors will likely bring Class A misdemeanor charges, which carry a jail sentence of up to one year, up to $4,000 in fines, or both.
Felony Theft Charges
Felony charges carry steeper penalties than misdemeanor charges. If you’re convicted of stealing property valued between $2,500 and $30,000, you could face the penalties for a state jail felony—a jail sentence lasting between 180 days and two years, up to $10,000 in fines, or both. Third-degree felony charges typically apply to theft offenses involving property valued between $30,000 and $150,000. If convicted, you could spend between two to ten years in prison and pay up to $10,000 in fines. For property valued between $150,000 and $300,000, prosecutors may bring second-degree felony charges, which carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison, $10,000 in fines, or both. Stolen property valued over $300,000 leads to first-degree felony charges. Those convicted of first-degree felony theft may be sentenced to spend between 5 to 99 years in prison and pay up to $10,000 in fines.
There are other factors the court considers when determining penalties for theft offenses. For instance, having a previous conviction on your record can lead to enhanced penalties for a second offense. Stealing a firearm or controlled substance, regardless of value, can lead to more severe penalties. Additionally, if you were working as a public servant at the time of the criminal activity and used your status to appropriate the property, you can expect to face more serious charges.
Seeking Legal Help When You Need it Most
If you have been arrested for a theft offense in Pearland or Houston, it’s natural to feel concerned about your future and freedom. The most strategic step you can take is to contact a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your situation. Your attorney will answer your questions, address your concerns, and help you pursue the most appropriate path forward to keep your future as bright as possible.
Call the Law Offices of Keith G. Allen, PLLC, at (832) 230-0075 to schedule a free initial consultation with a dedicated and experienced Pearland criminal defense lawyer.