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.
Penalties for different types of theft in Texas include:
- Less than $50, or less than $20 by check: A Class C misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $500.
- $50 or more but less than $500, or $20 to less than $500 by check: A Class B misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail.
- $500 or more but less than $1,500: A Class A misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $4,000 and up to one year in jail.
- $1,500 or more but less than $20,000: A felony, with a fine of up to $10,000 and up to two years in jail.
- $20,000 or more but less than $100,000: A felony, with a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 10 years in state prison.
- $100,000 or more but less than $200,000: A felony, with a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 20 years in prison.
- $200,000 or more: A felony, with a fine of up to $10,000 and five years to life imprisonment in prison.
There are also variations of theft crimes like Burglary of a Vehicle (when you break into a car and steal something they charge you with this regardless of the amount stolen from inside the car), as well as Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle. This is what is charged in Texas when somebody steals a car, due to the fact that it is easier to prove someone didn’t have permission to be using a vehicle, than it is to prove that their intent was to permanently deprive the person of the vehicle, thus allowing car thieves and joy-riders to be charged equally.
There are also enhancement provisions in the Texas Penal Code allowing a person who has already been convicted of Theft more than two times to be charged with a State Jail felony, even though the value of the thing he is stealing is a misdemeanor value (Texas Penal Code Section 31.03(e)(4)(D). This is the habitual theft provision meant to punish serial shoplifters more harshly.
Theft crimes are also considered Crimes of Moral Turpitude which can have serious collateral consequences under Immigration law for anyone not a citizen.
Whatever type of theft charge you may be facing, understand that the consequences are not to be taken lightly. Call Peek & Toland, LLP today at (512) 474-4445 for a free consultation with a skilled attorney and begin to the road a successful defense without delay.