Theft refers to an individual taking another individual’s property with the intent to permanently deprive them of their property. Under the law, however, there are numerous different levels of theft as well as distinct theft crimes that may result in a range of penalties.
Theft may be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. The level of punishment an individual may face depends on the severity of the specific theft charges.
For example, if an individual steals a low value item from a retail store, it will result in lesser charges and penalties than stealing another individual’s vehicle. If an individual uses weapons or force while perpetrating theft, it will also be classified as a more serious crime.
If an individual is facing theft charges, it is important for them to be aware of the possible penalties and defenses that may be available. These will depend on the laws of the state as well as the specific theft crime the individual is charged with.
It is also important to note that many states use the term larceny instead of the term theft.
What Is Theft in Texas?
Common theft crimes include the taking and carrying away of property that belongs to another individual. Theft is committed, as noted above, with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property.
Texas theft charges involve an unlawful appropriation of property by an individual with the intent to permanently deprive the property owner.
What Are Some Examples of Theft Crimes?
As noted above, there are numerous different categories of theft charges that range from minor to serious offenses. Examples of minor theft include stealing items such as clothes or lower value jewelry.
These types of theft are often classified as petty theft or misdemeanor theft. The threshold for this offense varies widely by state.
However, typically, the value will not exceed $1,000. In contrast, examples of more serious thefts include stealing items such as a car, high value jewelry, or a large sum of cash.
State laws classify each offense based upon:
- The type of theft that was involved;
- The value of the stolen property; and
- Whether there were any aggravating factors.
Theft of more valuable property may be referred to as grand theft or grand larceny.
How Does the Law Define Property?
In the context of criminal law, property may be broadly defined. This is due to the fact that property can include both movable and immovable items.
Examples of types of property that may be unlawfully taken by theft include, but are not limited to:
- Real property, or immovable items, for example, land and things that are attached to the land;
- Tangible or moveable property, such as:
- cash; and
- other items;
- Documents, such as:
- tiles; and
- Information that could include a person’s identifying data, a company’s trade secrets, etc; and
- Personal services, such as food at a restaurant, also commonly known as dine and dash.
Under the definition of property provided above, property may be considered anything an individual owns.
How Do Prosecutors Determine Whether a Theft Charge Is a Misdemeanor or Felony?
Theft of property in Texas is classified based on the value of the property or service that was stolen as well as the type of stolen property. When determining the severity of the charge to be filed against a defendant, the prosecution may rely on the property’s fair market or replacement value.
What Are the Punishment Classifications for Theft in Texas?
The follow is a list of classifications and corresponding criminal sentencing in Texas:
- Class C Misdemeanor: Property valued under $100. This is punishable by a $500 fine;
- Class B Misdemeanor: Property valued between $100 and $750. It is punishable by no more than 180 days in jail or a fine of up to $2,000;
- Class A Misdemeanor: Property valued at more than $750 but less than $2,500. It is punishable by less than 1 year in jail or a fine of up to $4,000;
- State Jail Felony: Property that is valued at more than $2,500 but at less than $30,000. It is punishable by 180 days in jail to two years in jail or a fine of up to $10,000;
- Third Degree Felony: Property that is valued at more than $30,000 but at less than $150,000. It is punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000;
- Second Degree Felony: Property valued at more than $150,000 but less than $300,000. It is punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000; and
- First Degree Felony: Property valued at more than $2300,000. It is punishable by 5 to 99 years or a fine of up to $10,000.
Is There a Punishment Enhancement for Theft in Texas?
Yes, there are Texas theft enhancement factors. If a defendant has a prior theft conviction, their current charge could be upgraded. For example, a defendant with a prior conviction may have a class C misdemeanor charge become a Class B misdemeanor charge based on their prior conviction.
Are There Any Defenses for Theft?
If an individual is charged with theft, there may be some defenses available to them in court. The defenses that are available to a defendant will depend on the circumstances of their case.
Defenses that may be available for a theft charge generally include:
- True ownership of the property by the defendant; and
- Authorization to use the property.
These may not always be available, depending on the facts of the case. There are also other defenses not listed above that may be available.
If a mitigating factor is present, although it is not a defense, it may lessen the severity of the punishment a defendant receives for the crime. Examples of mitigating factors include:
- Lack of criminal history;
- Age; and
What Is the “Specific Intent” Defense?
Criminal intent is the individual’s state of mind at the time of a crime and the motivations that may be connected to their physical acts. There are different categories of criminal intent that depend largely on the type of crime committed.
With theft, the prosecution is required to show that the defendant intended to permanently deprive someone else of their property and did not accidentally obtain the property. There are two categories of criminal intent, general intent and specific intent.
In general, it is more difficult to prove specific intent crimes than general intent crimes. Specific intent refers to an individual who knowingly or intentionally commits a crime.
Specific intent requires that the defendant had a subjective knowledge or desire that their actions would bring about illegal conduct. Because of this, the lack of specific intent may be used as a defense in the context of a theft charge.
Should I Contact a Lawyer Regarding My Theft Charge?
If you have been charged with theft in Texas, it is important to consult with a Texas criminal lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer can advise you of the possible punishments you may face and any defenses that may be available to you.
Your attorney can also attempt to negotiate with the prosecution for a reduction in charges or a plea deal.