Texas does not have separate statutes for auto theft; the offense falls under the regular theft statute. Under Tex. Pen. Code 31.03, individuals commit a theft when they unlawfully appropriate property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. This means that individuals may face theft charges if they intentionally take a vehicle that does not belong to them, they took a car knowing that it is stolen, they drive a vehicle without the owner’s possession, or if they fail to return a rental car when it is due to back to the rental agency.
Since theft crimes are classified according to the value of the property, the more the vehicle is worth, the higher the theft charge and the more severe the penalties. Prior criminal convictions also may impact the overall sanctions that individuals receive for auto theft. Most vehicles will fall in the $1,500 to $20,000 range, which makes the offense a state jail felony, or within the $20,000 to $100,000 for most new vehicles, which makes the offense a third-degree felony. For a state jail felony, the sentence of incarceration can range between 180 days and two years, along with a fine of up to $10,000. A third-degree felony conviction can result in a prison sentence of two to ten years, as well as a $10,000 fine.
Some defenses commonly arise in auto theft cases. For instance, if the individual had the consent of the owner to operate the vehicle, then there can be no auto theft. In other cases, if the individual had no intention of depriving the owner of the use or benefit of the vehicle, then there is no crime. When you are charged with any criminal offense in the state of Texas, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent your interests from the very beginning of your case. Taking steps to get you released from jail and fight for your rights at the outset of your case is typically easier than waiting until your case has progressed. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 399-2311 today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team.