Texas Theft Laws

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

At No Cost! 

 How Is Theft Defined in Texas?

In Texas, theft is unlawfully appropriating property with the intent to deprive the owner of the possession and control of the property.

In non-legal terminology, this means that a person commits theft when they take something that belongs to another person without that person’s consent or any other legal justification for doing so. An additional element of theft is that the owner has no intention of giving the property back to its rightful owner.

For example, if a person borrows their neighbor’s lawn mower with the intention of returning it when they are done mowing their lawn, they are not guilty of theft, even if they forget to return it right away.

However, if they tell the owner they just want to borrow it, take it, and sell it to a third party, they are guilty of theft because when they took it, they had no intention of returning it.

Texas theft law covers the stealing of a range of assets, including personal property, such as a TV, car, or money in a bank account. Theft law also covers the stealing of real property, such as land or title to land, documents such as paper money or stock certificates, and services, such as a restaurant meal, accommodations, or utilities.

What Is “Unlawful Appropriation?”

Appropriation is the action of taking property for one’s own use, usually without the permission of the owner. Appropriation of property is considered unlawful when:

  • Property is taken without the owner’s consent;
  • The perpetrator accepts property that they know was taken from the owner by a third party without the owner’s consent;
  • A perpetrator accepts property in police custody despite the fact that it was explicitly represented by police to the perpetrator as stolen property.

When Can I Be Charged With Theft in Texas?

Texas has included the following offenses in its state statute for theft:

A person can be charged with a theft offense in Texas whenever a prosecuting authority believes it has enough evidence to prove to a jury at trial that a person committed the offense.

A Texas theft lawyer can explain the circumstances in which the crime may be charged.

What Are the Penalties for Theft in Texas?

Most states have classifications of theft crimes, and so does Texas. Texas classifies theft offenses by the value of the property or services that are stolen. In some cases, the crimes are sorted according to the type of property taken.

Some theft offenses, the less serious ones, are charged as misdemeanors, and others, the more serious, as felonies. In addition to the payment of a fine and possible imprisonment, a judge can order a perpetrator to pay restitution to the victim to compensate them for their loss.

  • Class C Misdemeanor Theft: If the value of the property or services stolen in the perpetration of the offense is less than $100, theft is charged as a class C misdemeanor. The punishment for a class C misdemeanor includes payment of a fine up to $500, but jail time is not a possibility;
  • Class B Misdemeanor Theft: Theft is a Texas class B misdemeanor if the value of the property or services that were stolen is $100 or more but less than $750. Also, theft is a class B misdemeanor if the value of the property stolen is less than $100, but it is the perpetrator’s second or subsequent theft offense. Or if the property stolen is a driver’s license or another identification card, then the crime is a class B misdemeanor.
    • The punishment for a class B misdemeanor can include payment of a fine of a maximum of $2,000, imprisonment for no more than 180 days, or both;
  • Class A Misdemeanor Theft: Theft is a class A misdemeanor if the value of the property or services stolen is $750 or more but less than $2,500. The punishment for a class A misdemeanor can include payment of a fine of a maximum of $4,000, imprisonment for a maximum of 1 year, or both;
  • State Jail Felony Theft: Theft is a state jail felony if the value of property or services that are stolen is $2,500 or more but less than $30,000. Or, if the value of the property stolen is less than $2,500, and it is the perpetrator’s third or subsequent theft offense, then the crime can be a state jail felony;
    • The punishment for a state jail felony theft can include a fine of a maximum of $10,000, imprisonment ranging from 180 days to two years, or both. A state jail felony is charged as a third-degree felony if the perpetrator used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the offense or had a prior felony conviction;
  • Third-Degree Felony Theft: Theft is a felony of the third degree if the value of the property or services stolen is $30,000 or more but less than $150,000. Also, the crime is a third-degree felony if the property stolen is certain types of livestock valued at less than $150,000, or the property is a controlled substance valued at less than $150,000, and it was stolen from a commercial building where controlled substances are generally stored.
    • The punishment for a third-degree felony is a fine of a maximum of $10,000, or imprisonment in state prison from a minimum of 2 to a maximum of 10 years, or both;
  • Second-Degree Felony Theft: A theft crime is a second-degree felony in Texas if the value of the stolen property or services stolen is $150,000 or more and less than $300,000 or if the property stolen is an ATM or its contents valued at less than $300,000. The punishment is payment of a fine of a maximum of $10,000 or imprisonment of a minimum of 2 to a maximum of 20 years, or both;
  • First-Degree Felony Theft: Theft is a first-degree felony in Texas if the value of the stolen property or services is $300,000 or more. The punishment is payment of a fine of not more than $10,000 and imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum of 5 years and a maximum of 99 years, or both.

Is Consent a Defense to Theft in Texas?

As for other criminal offenses, there are defenses to a theft charge in Texas. Consent can be a defense if it is Informed consent that legally authorizes the defendant to act for the property owner. In Texas, consent is not a defense unless it is informed.

Consent obtained in any of the following ways would not be a defense to a charge of theft:

  • Obtained by coercion or deception;
  • Given by a person who is intoxicated, too young to consent, or has a mental defect or disease;
  • Given by a person who is not legally authorized to act for the owner;
  • Given by a person who is of advanced age or is known to have a diminished capacity and is unable to make rational and informed decisions.

Can a Theft Victim Sue the Perpetrator of a Theft Crime in Civil Court for Criminal Theft?

Under the Texas Theft Liability Act, a theft victim may sue a person who has committed theft of their property to recover damages, including actual damages, caused by the theft. A victim whose lawsuit is successful can receive up to $1,000 in damages, as well as attorney’s fees.

Do I Need the Help of a Lawyer for My Theft Charge?

If you have been charged with a theft offense or stealing in Texas, you need to consult a Texas criminal defense lawyer. The crime of theft is potentially a felony that can bring time in prison as punishment. LegalMatch.com can connect you to a lawyer who can protect your rights and get you the best outcome for your case.

star-badge.png

16 people have successfully posted their cases

Find a Lawyer