Like most states, Texas imposes strict penalties for theft offenses. Those accused of intentionally and knowingly taking property belonging to someone else often face jail time, costly fines, and other limitations on their freedom and future. If law enforcement has arrested you for a theft offense, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and anxious about what the upcoming days, weeks, and months will bring. Before you assume the worst, reach out to an experienced Houston area criminal defense attorney to discuss your situation and determine the most strategic path forward. For most defendants, understanding the specifics of the charges they face can help them navigate the criminal justice process with greater clarity. Here is a brief overview of grand theft criminal charges in Texas and what steps you can take to prepare for what lies ahead.
How Texas Law Defines Grand Theft Charges
In Texas, a person can face theft charges for taking property belonging to someone else. However, the classification and severity of the offense depend on the monetary value of the items or services involved in the theft. When someone takes property valued over $100, the charges elevate from a Class C theft to a higher charge. In order for prosecutors to convict a defendant of a theft offense, they must show that the alleged activity meets the legal definition of theft.
The Legal Definition of Theft Under Texas Law
According to Title 7, Section 31.03 of the Texas Penal Code, “A person commits an [theft] offense if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.” The section goes on to define appropriation of property as unlawful when: “(1) it is without the owner’s effective consent; (2) the property is stolen and the actor appropriates the property knowing 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, prosecutors must demonstrate that the defendant intentionally and knowingly attempted to take someone else’s property, depriving that person of their rightful ownership.
Common Examples of Theft Offenses
There are many instances in which law enforcement may arrest someone for an alleged theft offense. Shoplifting is a typical example of theft, where a person attempts to remove property from the retail owner without their knowledge, consent, or compensation. Interfering with someone who has just walked away from an ATM and taking their money is also a serious theft offense. Any circumstance where money or property was taken from the rightful owner could lead to criminal charges against the alleged perpetrator.
Penalties for Theft Convictions in Texas
The nature of the theft charge depends primarily on the value of the property involved in the offense. If the value of the stolen property is between $750 and $2,500, you will likely face a Class A misdemeanor charge, carrying a possible sentence of up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, and other restrictions on your future. When the value of the stolen property exceeds $2,500, you will face felony charges that carry more extended periods of incarceration, steeper fines, and additional penalties.
Third-Degree Felony Theft Offenses
Theft offenses involving property valued between $30,000 and $150,000 are charged as third-degree felony offenses. If convicted, a defendant could face up to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and other barriers to future housing and employment options.
Second-Degree Theft Offenses
When a theft offense involves property valued between $150,000 and $300,000, a defendant will face a second-degree grand theft felony charge. In Texas, a second-degree felony conviction carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, among other lasting limitations to one’s housing and employment prospects.
First-Degree Grand Theft Penalties
The most serious theft offenses, in which the value of the stolen property exceeds $300,000, result in first-degree felony charges. A conviction carries a possible prison sentence lasting between five to 99 years, a fine of up to $10,000, and other permanent consequences to your reputation and future prospects.
Protecting Your Freedom and Future
Facing criminal charges of any kind can be stressful, especially if this is your first brush with the Texas criminal justice system. While you may feel tempted to explain the situation or express your innocence to the arresting officers, it’s best to exercise your Constitutional right to remain silent. Remember, law enforcement and prosecutors can use anything you say to build a case against you. Refrain from discussing the situation until you have the chance to speak with an experienced Pearland criminal defense lawyer. Together, you and your attorney can assess the specifics of the case and pursue the most strategic path forward.
If you are facing theft charges in Pearland or Brazoria County, call the Law Offices of Keith G. Allen, PLLC, right away to arrange a free consultation with a trusted criminal defense attorney.