Theft encompasses a very broad range of crimes, but overall there are two key elements in a theft crime:
- The taking of someone else’s property without their permission; and
- The intent to permanently deprive the owner of rightful possession of the property.
What do these elements mean? The first element is fairly self-explanatory — taking someone else’s property when you aren’t allowed to do so. For example, putting a DVD in your purse at Walmart and walking out without paying for it. The DVD belongs to the store, and since you didn’t pay for it, you do not have permission to leave with it.
The second element is a little trickier. Criminal intent is a key component of a theft charge. It must be demonstrated that you took something on purpose, with the intention of doing something you knew to be wrong. This element can be vital in the defense of Theft Charges in Houston.
For example: You’re checking out at Walmart and have a cart full of stuff. After emptying your cart, you fail to notice a small item that has rolled to the back. You pay for all your other items, and leave the store without remembering that one. In this case, you took property without permission, but you had no intent to commit theft. It was simply an oversight.
In addition to direct theft such as the above examples, there are other ways to be charged under theft crimes laws. For instance, in Texas, you can be charged for possession of stolen property, even if you did not steal the property yourself. An example of this would be buying something or accepting a gift that you know to be stolen property.
Sentencing Guidelines for Theft Crimes in Texas
The penalties for theft crimes are defined in Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code. The degree of punishment is based on the value of the stolen property; the higher the value stolen, the more severe the penalty will be.
Other factors that can influence the sentence for a theft crime conviction include age of the offender, whether a weapon was used when the crime was committed, and any past criminal convictions by the offender.
The basic penalties for theft as defined under Texas law are:
- Class C Misdemeanor: When the value of items stolen was less than $50, or less than $20 if by check, the penalty is a fine of no more than $500.
- Class B Misdemeanor: Value of property is more than $50 but less than $500, penalty can include jail time of not more than 180 days and/or a fine of no more than $2,000.
- Class A Misdemeanor: Value of property is $500 or more but less than $1,500; penalty can include jail time of no more than a year and/or a fine of no more than $4,000.
- State Jail Felony: Value of property is $1,500 or more but less than $20,000. May also include theft of property of a specific type, including guns or certain livestock. Penalty can include incarceration in state jail from 180 days to 2 years and a fine of no more than $10,000.
- 3rd Degree Felony: Value of property or services stolen is between $20,000 and $100,000. Penalty can include imprisonment for 2 to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
- 2nd Degree Felony: Value of stolen property or services ranges from $100,000 to $200,000; penalty can range from 2 to 20 years of imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines.
- 1st Degree Felony: For the most severe form of theft, in which the property or services stolen is valued at $200,000 or greater, the penalties can include from 5 to 99 years of imprisonment and a fine of no more than $10,000.
If more than one item is stolen, the total value of all the property will determine the severity of punishment. For example, if 2 shirts worth $30 each were stolen, the total value would be assessed as $60, making the crime a Class B Misdemeanor.
In addition to criminal penalties, the Texas Theft Liability Act allows victims of theft offenses to seek actual damages, punitive damages up to $1,000, court costs and attorney’s fees from the person alleged to have committed the theft crime.
If you’ve been charged with a theft crime, contact Lisa Shapiro Strauss, Attorney at Law, for help today.