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Theft Crimes

What Are Common Property Crimes Under Texas Law?

By Peek & Toland on June 15, 2020

Various criminal offenses fall into the category of property crimes under Texas law. One of the most common of these crimes is larceny or theft. Larceny occurs when individuals take actions that permanently deprive others of the benefit or use of property or anything of value that belongs to them, without the consent of the owners. Likewise, shoplifting is a subcategory of larceny, in that it involves any actions designed to remove merchandise, money, or anything of value from a retail establishment. These actions may include taking property from a store but also can take the form of switching or altering price tags or placing merchandise in different containers or packaging.

Other property crimes that involve an element of theft include burglary and robbery. Burglary, which is the more common of the two crimes, occurs when individuals illegally enter someone’s home or business without permission and with the intent to commit a crime. Robbery, on the other hand, occurs when people force or violence to deprive others of property that they own or over which they have control.

What Are Common Property Crimes Under Texas Law?

Another type of property crime consists of offenses that are primarily financial, as money is a form of property under state law. Various types of fraud, including real estate fraud, credit card fraud, and insurance fraud, all qualify as property crimes. Embezzlement, money laundering, and other similar offenses typically have an element of theft, as well. Writing bad checks is another form of property offense that is quite common. Although these crimes may occur more in business or employment settings, they still are property crimes that can have severe consequences for those who commit them.

If you or a family member is facing any criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Theft Crimes

What is the Difference Between Burglary and Theft Under Texas Law?

By Peek & Toland on May 23, 2020

Although burglary can include an element of theft, burglary and theft are separate crimes under Texas law with distinct elements and penalties. Due to the unauthorized entry that characterizes a burglary, penalties for burglary may be more severe than they are for theft.

Tex. Pen. Code § 31.03 defines theft as the unlawful and non-consensual taking of property from its owner, with the intent to deprive the owner of the benefits or usage of that property. Under this code section, theft can take various forms. For instance, theft charges can result from:

  • Theft of services
  • Theft by writing bad checks
  • Organized retail theft
  • Receiving stolen or embezzled property

The value of the property involved determines the level of the charges and accompanying penalties for theft. These charges can range from a Class C misdemeanor offense for property worth less than $100 to a first-degree felony for property worth $300,000 or more. The theft of some items of property, however, results in a specific criminal charge regardless of their value. For instance, theft of a firearm is always a State jail felony, no matter the value of the firearm.

What is the Difference Between Burglary and Theft Under Texas Law?

In contrast, Tex. Pen. Code § 30.02 defines burglary as occurring when individuals enter a home or building and intend to commit, attempt to commit, or commit a felony, theft, or assault. Burglary also occurs when individuals remain hidden with the intent to commit a felony, theft, or assault in a building or habitation. The main distinction between theft and burglary is that burglary involves entering a building without consent and may involve the commission of a crime other than theft.

In contrast, Tex. Pen. Code § 30.02 defines burglary as occurring when individuals enter a home or building and intend to commit, attempt to commit, or commit a felony, theft, or assault. Burglary also occurs when individuals remain hidden with the intent to commit a felony, theft, or assault in a building or habitation. The main distinction between theft and burglary is that burglary involves entering a building without consent and may involve the commission of a crime other than theft.

The penalties for burglary generally are harsher than those for theft. Burglary of any building other than someone’s home is a State jail felony offense. A conviction for a State jail felony can result in a sentence of incarceration ranging from 180 days to two years, as well as a $10,000 fine. Burglary of a commercial building that houses controlled substances, when the person entered the building to steal controlled substances, causes the charges to increase to a third-degree felony offense. Penalties for a third-degree felony conviction can include from two to a ten-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine if the burglary involves someone’s home, however, the charge is a second-degree felony, which can lead to a jail sentence of two to 20 years and a $10,000 fine.

An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense against any criminal charges. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case and explore your options. We can then help you make the decisions that are mostly like to be beneficial to you based on your situation. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

Posted in Theft Crimes

New Law Strengthens Penalties for Switching Price Tags on Merchandise

By Peek & Toland on August 27, 2019

Governor Greg Abbott recently signed HB 427 into law, which will become effective on September 1, 2019. This law attempts to equalize the penalties for price tag switching of merchandise to those for shoplifting. Price tag switching is a means that individuals may use to pay less than the retail value of the merchandise that they are purchasing. By placing a tag with a lower price on an item before purchasing it, individuals may try to pay a lower price for it. The rising incidence of self-checkouts that go relatively unmonitored can make price tag switching a more successful and lucrative scheme. Like shoplifting, this practice causes a loss to the business owner.

New Law Strengthens Penalties for Switching Price Tags on Merchandise

Before the passage of this law, the penalty scheme for price tag switching did not take the value of the property lost to the business owner into account. Under the new law, penalties will depend upon the difference in cost between the actual retail price and the price that the individuals attempted to pay for the item through price tag switching.

Charges for price tag switching now can range from a Class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony offense depending on the difference between the price marked and the price paid. For a difference that is less than $100, the crime is a Class C misdemeanor, which carries the potential for a $500 fine, but no arrest or jail time. For the offense to become a first-degree felony, however, the price differential must be $300,000 or more. Although it is far more likely that price tag switching occurs during the shoplifting of relatively inexpensive items, some may use the scheme at higher price points, as well.

The Peek & Toland criminal defense lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your criminal case. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your criminal defense issue.

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New Texas Law Prohibits Mail Theft

By Peek & Toland on August 22, 2019

Texas is cracking down on porch pirates, or people who steal mail and other packages from people’s porches. The law covers both packages that mail delivery or standard carrier services drop off at people’s houses and boxes that people have left for pickup. Governor Greg Abbott recently signed House Bill 37 into law, which goes into effect on September 1, 2019.

Mail theft is a federal crime, but until the passage of this law, it was not subject to prosecution under state law. Previously, the only sanction for stealing others’ mail was a citation for a Class C misdemeanor, which could result in a maximum $500 fine. Class C misdemeanors cannot result in arrests or jail time.

Now, the offense can range from a Class A misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, depending on the circumstances. For individuals who steal less than ten pieces of mail, the charge is a Class A misdemeanor. The maximum penalties for a Class A misdemeanor conviction include up to one year of incarceration and a fine of up to $4,000.

For individuals who steal between ten and 30 pieces of mail from different addresses, the charge is a state jail felony. A conviction for a state jail felony can result in a jail sentence ranging from 180 days to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. For more than 30 pieces of mail from different addresses, the charge is a third-degree felony, which can result in a prison sentence of two to ten years and a fine of up to $10,000.

New Texas Law Prohibits Mail Theft

Individuals can face enhanced charges if there is evidence that they were targeting the victim for identity theft, or if they were targeted elderly or disabled victims.

Critics of the new law say that the law does not consider the value of the mail or packages stolen. In some cases, the law could result in disproportionate penalties. Taking a package containing a less expensive item theoretically could result in harsher penalties than for those stealing a more expensive bicycle from someone’s driveway.

If you or a family member is facing any criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

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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

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