Theft Crimes

What Are the Penalties for Tampering with Evidence in Texas?

By Peek & Toland on May 7, 2019

Tex. Pen. Code § 37.09 addresses the most common type of tampering with evidence. This criminal offense can take many forms, but tampering with evidence involves intentionally destroying, concealing, or altering physical items so that they are unavailable and cannot be used as evidence in any criminal proceedings. In order to commit this offense, you must be aware that a police investigation is occurring or ongoing. Some examples of tampering with physical evidence might include:

  • Throwing drugs out of the car or swallowing them as police approach you
  • Moving or hiding a body following a murder
  • Tossing a gun into a body of water or the trash after using it in a robbery
  • Deleting computer files, attempting to destroy a computer, or hiding portable storage media when police are investigating you for a crime

Another variation of tampering with evidence under this code section involves creating, presenting, or using a document with the knowledge that is false to try to alter the outcome of a criminal investigation.

Tampering with evidence generally is a third-degree felony under Texas law. A conviction for a third-degree felony can result in a prison sentence ranging from two to ten years and a $10,000 fine.

However, the offense becomes a second-degree felony if individuals tamper or attempt to conceal a human corpse. A second-degree felony conviction may result in as many as 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Furthermore, it is a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine, for individuals to discover and fail to report a human corpse to law enforcement authorities, if they know or reasonably should know that the authorities are unaware of the corpse.

When you are charged with any type of 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) 474-4445 today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team. intment

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Theft: The Basics Under Texas Law

By Peek & Toland on March 21, 2019

The criminal offense of theft occurs under Tex. Pen. Code § 31.03 when individuals unlawfully appropriate property belonging to others, with the intent of depriving the owners of the benefit and use of the property. Generally, appropriation is unlawful when one of the following situations occurs:

·         The owners of the property do not give consent to the appropriation,

·         The individuals appropriate the property with the knowledge that it is stolen, or

·         The property was in the custody of a law enforcement agency, a law enforcement agent represented it as stolen, and the individuals that appropriated believe it to be stolen

 

Theft: The Basics Under Texas Law

The level of the charge and the resulting penalties depends largely on the value of the stolen property. Generally, theft is a misdemeanor if the value of the property is less than $2,500, and a felony if the value of the property is $2,500 or more. However, some thefts automatically qualify as a higher level of offense due to the nature of the property. For instance, theft of a firearm is a state jail felony charge under Texas law, regardless of the value of the firearm, as well as any item stolen from a grave, and official ballots from an election.

Furthermore, certain characteristics of the accused persons or the owners of the stolen property also can elevate the charge to the next highest level of offense. For example, if the owner of the stolen property is an elderly individual or a nonprofit organization, then the offense automatically increases to the next level of offense than the theft normally would be. In some cases, this can cause a theft offense to increase from a misdemeanor or a felony.  

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.

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Shoplifting and Texas Law

By Peek & Toland on March 6, 2019

Tex. Pen. Code § 31.03, which is the code section that generally contains all consolidated theft offenses, encompasses the criminal offense of shoplifting. Theft occurs when individuals “unlawfully appropriate property with intent to deprive the owner of property.” The appropriation of property is unlawful if it is:

• Without the owner’s consent
• Stolen and the actor knows that it is stolen, or
• In the custody of a law enforcement agency, a law enforcement agent has represented it as stolen, and the actor reasonably believes that it is stolen

Given this broad definition of theft, all types of shoplifting fall within it. Theft includes not only taking merchandise from a store without paying for it, but also switching price tags on items in order to pay a lower price, and concealing items on your person or in your purse. You may be charged with theft even if you never left the store with the merchandise. If you had the intent to remove the items from the store without paying for them, then you may face shoplifting charges. Even if you were simply watching to make sure that your friend didn’t get caught shoplifting, and didn’t take any action to steal an item, you still could face charges under code section dealing with theft.

Shoplifting and Texas Law

The level of charges that you will face for shoplifting largely depend on the value and type of the items stolen and whether you have previous theft convictions. For instance, if the property involves items with a value of under $100, the charge is a Class C misdemeanor, whose only penalty is a maximum $500 fine.
However, shoplifting charges are a Class B misdemeanor in any of the following cases:

• The value of the property involved is more than $100, but less than $750,
• The value of the property involved is less than $100, but the individual has a previous theft conviction, or
• The property involved is a driver’s license or personal ID card issued by Texas or any other state

Conviction on a Class B misdemeanor can result in up to 180 days in jail and $2,000 in fines, or both.
It is not as common for a shoplifting offense to involve high-dollar items. If this does occur, both the level of the charges and the penalties increase as the value of the items increases.

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.

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Auto Theft, or Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle

By Peek & Toland on March 2, 2019

Tex. Pen. Code § 31.07 makes it illegal for anyone to intentionally and knowingly operate the boat, aircraft, or vehicle without the consent of the owner. Essentially, this is the code section that prosecutors often use to file charges of auto theft. However, if a vehicle is worth more than $30,000, then it could be charged as theft, since the value of the vehicle would necessitate third degree felony charges, which can have harsher potential penalties than state jail felony charges.

Unlike theft offenses, unauthorized use of a vehicle under this section does not require proof that the accused intended to deprive the owner of the vehicle of its benefits or use. As a result, simply “borrowing” a relative’s car or so-called joyriding by taking the neighbor’s vehicle both can result in felony charges. The level of proof required for an auto theft charge is far lower than that of theft in general.

Auto Theft, or Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle

Violation of this code section is a state jail felony. Conviction on a state jail felony may result in a jail term ranging from 180 days to two years, as well as a fine of up to $10,000. A felony conviction also likely eliminates certain civil rights, including the right to possess firearms, the right to sit on a jury, and the right to vote.

There may be defenses available in unauthorized use of a vehicle cases, depending on the circumstances. For instance, you may have mistakenly thought that you had the owner’s consent to use the vehicle, due to a miscommunication between you and the owner. If charged as theft, on the other hand, you may be able to argue that you did not intent to deprive the owner of the vehicle. Every case is different, so the defenses that are applicable in your case may vary.

When you are charged with any type of 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) 474-4445 today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team.

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Check Fraud

By Peek & Toland on December 13, 2018

One of the most common types of check fraud occurs when individuals write bad checks, or “bounce” checks. This means that either a person writes a check to another or to a business for goods and services knowing that there is insufficient funds in the bank account with which to cover the check, or uses the “float” time between writing the check and the person cashing the check to defund the account so that there are insufficient funds to cover the check. Under Texas law, this type of check fraud is illegal, and it is normally a Class C misdemeanor.

Other types of check fraud may include the following:

·         Pass off a check belonging to another person as their own

·         Steal an unsigned check belonging to another person

·         Present false identification in order to pose as the owner of a check

 

Check Fraud

Penalties for these types of check fraud vary, but the consequences for a conviction can be severe. For instance, forging a check can result in a state jail felony charge, which can result in anywhere from 180 days to two years in jail. Stealing another person’s check is a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $4,000.

Furthermore, check fraud often accompanies other similar fraud charges. For example, if an individual uses false identification in order to pass a bad check, then he or she may be charged with identity theft in addition to check fraud. Multiple convictions clearly can bring about even more harsh penalties.

Modern technology has made it even easier for law enforcement officials to catch those who commit the various forms of check fraud. Security cameras can capture footage of individuals passing checks belonging to others. Owners of stolen checks may alert banking institutions to look out for anyone attempting to pass those checks. The bank also may freeze the owner’s account in order to prevent further bad checks being written.

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges, including check fraud and similar charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.

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What is Restitution?

By Peek & Toland on November 11, 2018

Restitution is a legal term for money paid to crime victims in order to restore or return to them any losses that they have suffered. In many criminal cases, Texas judges will order defendants to personally pay restitution to the victims of their crimes. Restitution also is designed to give victims a sense of justice and make defendants be responsible for the financial repercussions of their actions.

Crime victims have a constitutional right to restitution in the state of Texas if they suffered property losses or personal injuries as a result of a crime that a defendant committed. A court also can order that a defendant pay restitution to insurance companies that paid for a victim’s medical expenses and the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund, for what it paid out to a particular victim.

 

What is Restitution?

The amount of restitution that a court orders a defendant to pay depends upon the losses that the victim actually sustained. For example, if an individual stole $500 from another, a judge might order him or her to repay the $500 to the victim of the theft. Although more common in property crime cases, a judge may order restitution in crimes that result in bodily harm, as well. In this type of case, the perpetrator of an assault might be ordered to pay for medical bills of the individual who as the subject of the assault.

Nonetheless, restitution is not available for every crime that occurs. Law enforcement officers must be able to find and arrest the perpetrator of a crime and the prosecution must be able to secure a conviction before a judge can order a perpetrator to pay restitution. For crimes in which the perpetrator is never located or identified, crime victims may be left without much of a remedy, although they may eligible for some funds from the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund in some cases. Additionally, many defendants simply don’t have the means to pay restitution, particularly if they are incarcerated as a result of the crime at issue or other criminal offenses for a lengthy period of time.

An experienced Texas theft attorney can help you build a strong defense against any criminal charges. Taking steps to get you released from jail and fight for your rights at the beginning of your case is typically easier than waiting until your case may be too far gone to fix. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

 

Posted in Criminal Defense, Theft Crimes

Court Rules States Can Impose Their Own Penalties on Immigrants who Commit Identity Theft

By Peek & Toland on June 27, 2016

Tough penalties imposed on undocumented immigrants in Arizona have been upheld in a federal court in a case that appears to give the green light to states to impose their own sanctions on those engaged in identity theft.

The ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in May is seen as another victory for the hardline approach of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona who has pioneered new ways to punish illegal immigrants. The hardline approach of Arpaio was recently profiled in Rolling Stone magazine.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said that while there are still some questions about how prosecutors and police interpret Arizona’s identity theft laws, they do not appear to violate the Constitution, or impede the powers of the federal government to set its national immigration policies.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Arpaio’s identity theft law “stretched the crime of identity theft to include everyone from forgers to people simply seeking employment without valid documentation.”

Identity theft by immigrants leads to serious penalties

The Washington Times reported that the judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Arizona’s laws are acceptable as long as they apply to everyone. That means they include U.S. citizens and it’s, therefore, immaterial if the legislature intended them to be used as a way to attack one of the symptoms of illegal immigration, namely identity theft.

The decision raises the prospect that other states that have taken an uncompromising line on immigrants in the past, such as Texas, may bring in their own set of hardline, Arizona-style laws.

The unanimous U.S. Court of Appeals decision was written by Circuit Judge Richard C. Tallman, who stated:

“In this case, Arizona exercised its police powers to pass criminal laws that apply equally to unauthorized aliens, authorized aliens, and U.S. citizens. Just because some applications of those laws implicate federal immigration priorities does not mean that the statute as a whole should be struck down.”

The law is just the latest piece of legislation in Arizona that’s tough on immigrants. Others include:

Requiring Businesses to Use E-Verify

The E-Verify program allows employers to check the work authorization of employees. It’s mandatory for businesses to use it in Arizona. The move to force businesses to use it was upheld by the Supreme Court.

SB 1070

Arizona brought in stiffer penalties for illegal immigrants for crimes but the Supreme Court struck these down. However, the justices upheld a section of the legislation that mandates police to check the legal status of people they encounter in their regular line of work, if they suspect they are in the United States illegally. The ACLU complained that most of the people who were checked followed routine traffic stops or other minor infractions.

Arizona brought in changes to the state’s identity theft laws eight years ago. They are intended to punish anyone with a false identity or a fake social security number who is seeking employment in Arizona.

While Texas has a conservative leadership like Arizona, it has not followed Arizona in enacting hardline anti-immigrant laws to the same degree.

In 2010, former governor Rick Perry said Arizona’s tough immigration stance would not be right for Texas. He said Texas has a long held tradition of rejecting harsh anti-immigration laws. Austin became a majority minority city back in 2005. Its undocumented immigrants live in fear of deportation and hope for reform of the immigration laws, rather than harsher legislation being enacted.

Our Austin immigration attorneys have helped hundreds of undocumented immigrants as well as those accused of identity theft. If you fear deportation or are facing criminal charges, call Peek & Toland today for help at (512) 474-4445.

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Texas is at the Center of Health Care Fraud Investigations

By Peek & Toland on June 16, 2016

Cracking down on health care fraud is an avowed aim of the Obama administration, and some of the largest investigations have been here in Texas.

The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association points out as much as $2.27 trillion a year is spent on healthcare and more than four billion insurance claims are processed annually. The financial losses due to health care fraud run into tens of billions of dollars a year.

Last month, a federal jury in Dallas found former Rockwall doctor Jacques Roy guilty of what the Dallas Morning News described as the largest home health fraud in the nation that involved a single doctor.

Texas is at center of health care fraud

Roy and his associates were accused of enticing Medicare patients by offering them food stamps, cash, and groceries as part of the $400 million scam. Prosecutors said he recruited fake patients, including homeless people, to make false health care claims.

A jury convicted Roy and three owners of home care agencies of heath care fraud, making false statements related to health care matters, conspiracy to commit health care fraud and obstruction of justice. When Roy was arrested in 2012, federal investigators said they had busted the largest Medicare fraud scheme ever discovered.

The FBI makes no secret of its commitment to uncovering health care fraud and new investigators have been drafted into these probes across Texas and elsewhere. On its website the FBI states.

“Health care fraud costs the country tens of billions of dollars a year. It’s a rising threat, with national health care expenditures estimated to exceed $3 trillion in 2014 and spending continuing to outpace inflation.”

Just a month before the Roy verdict, A Dallas anesthesiologist was convicted of defrauding about $10 million from the federal government.

The Dallas Morning News reported Dr. Richard Ferdinand Toussaint Jr. was convicted of seven counts of fraud. He admitted submitting bogus claims in 2009 and 2010 to United Healthcare, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas and other programs.

Given the fact there are federal investigators whose sole job is to look for health care fraud, you should contact an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney immediately if you are accused of these serious offenses. Doctors and other health care professionals who are convicted of these charges will lose their livelihoods and their reputations overnight.

Our highly reputable Austin-based criminal defense attorneys have a long track record in helping those charged with fraud and other white collar crimes. Call us to schedule a free no obligation consultation with one of our experienced lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

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What are the Penalties for Theft in Texas?

By Peek & Toland on January 21, 2014

Generally speaking, “theft” occurs when a person takes something that does not belong to him or her, without permission of the owner, with the intent to permanently deprive them of the object. Texas law recognizes several different types of theft crimes. An experienced Austin criminal defense attorney can explain the specific types of theft prohibited by Texas law and the penalties that come with a conviction.

The penalties for each type of theft depend on how severe the law believes the theft was. Severity is usually defined by the dollar value of the goods stolen, with the severity going up as the amount does. For instance, a person who steals a $50 prepaid cell phone will likely face less severe consequences than a person who steals a $50,000 diamond ring. Read the rest »

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