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Expanding Consequences of Theft

Have you ever thought of yourself as a thief or considered taking something that doesn’t belong to you? I’m not talking about a pen from the doctor’s office or Wi-Fi from your neighbor, but physically taking something from someone else’s home, business, or building. For some, those poor decisions can happen in a split second, but there are some consequences of a theft that will make you think twice about stealing anything from anyone, no matter how big or small.

Though I strongly encourage everyone to abide by the law and not steal, let’s play out some hypothetical situations and considerations in order to understand what is truly at risk when committing theft.

What kind of crime is this?

Ok, so you’ve decided to take something from someone else and are assessing your potential punishment by looking at the value of what you’re going to take—whether a stick of gum or a luxury sports car, everything has value. In Texas, we have what is known as the standard value ladder which is used to determine the degree of your crime—class A or B misdemeanors, all the way up to a felony charge. While the monetary value of what you take may be low enough to warrant a puny ticket, there are a few factors that can quickly raise the level of your offense despite having stolen something worth very little.

Partners in Crime

That old adage of “birds of a feather flock together” should not be taken lightly if you’re running with a group of people and getting into trouble together. You see, acting alone in your theft is bad enough, but adding an accomplice (or accomplices!) can earn you conspiracy charges. Next thing you know, you’re facing a felony. So, while we like to use that term, “partner in crime” to mean a friend you’re sticking with through thick and thin, you might consider leaving your partner at home if you’re going to be committing theft.

Location! Location! Location!

I’ve said it before, and it’s true in this circumstance—where you are matters. If you’ve taken something from a business, a building or someone’s home is relevant to what kind of charges you’re facing if you’re caught. Instead of relying on that standard value ladder to determine your crime, you’ve now added breaking and entering and trespassing to your list of crimes. Deciding to steal something from someone’s home? Congratulations, you’ve just graduated to a second-degree felony. Oh, you only took something from their front porch and didn’t actually enter their habitation? Doesn’t matter.

Texas criminal law has an interesting term called curtilage, which states that the outside area of a home or building, including the porch or entryway, is part of the structure. Stepping foot in those areas with some sticky fingers is just as bad as breaking a window to enter and carry out the TV. Where you are matters!

What’s at stake?

Besides the less than pleasant experience of being arrested and charged with crimes for something you thought was small, your entire future is now in jeopardy. If you think a felony charge on your record is no big deal, consider that you’ll be hard-pressed to find an employer willing to hire you with a felony arrest or conviction on your record, especially one of moral turpitude. If you are an immigrant who has been charged with these crimes, the situation is even direr, as you are very much at risk for deportation. Even with citizenship, the risk does not outweigh the reward.

As mentioned, we hope nobody ends up in the position of fighting a theft crime, and we hope these factors are taken into consideration before you decide to act on “something small” that could irrevocably change your life. If you or someone you know has found themselves in this situation, please reach out to one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Peek & Toland, and be sure to continue following us on social media where we will continue to break down aspects of the law that affect you.

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