Theft is a criminal act that conjures images of a person intentionally stealing someone’s property and fleeing the crime scene, slipping away before police can arrive. Many fail to realize that accepting stolen property is also a serious offense that actually carries the same penalties as ordinary theft. There are many defenses that can be used to fight a theft charge for accepting stolen property in Houston, many of them critical to the final result of your case.
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What the Law Says About Accepting Stolen Property in Texas
The Texas penal code defines theft as the unlawful seizure of property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. Accepting stolen property is treated like a theft crime and generally defined by four elements:
- The property must be received.
- The property must have been previously stolen.
- The person receiving the property must know it was stolen; and
- Upon receiving the property, the person acted with the intention to deprive the owner of his or her property.
The third element – knowing the property was stolen – is the foundation of an accepting stolen property charge in Houston. Under the circumstances surrounding the exchange of the property, a reasonable person should know that the property was stolen. However, “should know” can be far from having actual knowledge and far from resulting in a guilty charge of accepting stolen property.
Challenging Charges of Accepting Stolen Property
If you have been charged with accepting stolen property, it is in your best interest to immediately consult theft attorney Lisa Shapiro Strauss in Houston, Texas, to get an experienced legal advocate who will aggressively fight your charge. Some potential defenses include:
- Insufficient Evidence. Possession of a stolen good is not enough to convict the accused of accepting stolen property. It must be shown that the accused knew or should have known the property was stolen.
- Mistaken Belief. This can be a defense if it can be shown that the accused took ownership of the property with an honest belief that the property was not stolen.
- Incapacity. This is defined as not having the capacity to know right from wrong or even knowing the consequences that stem from the action of accepting stolen property.
- Age. Has the accused reached the age of criminal responsibility? If not, the charge for accepting stolen property may not hold.
- Intoxication. If the accused is involuntarily intoxicated and has severely limited judgment, it can be possible to show that the inebriation impaired comprehension of accepting stolen property.
Theft Penalties for Accepting Stolen Property
The most common theft penalties are fines, probation and imprisonment. Avoiding the more serious penalties are important, along with keeping your record clean. Deferred adjudication and pretrial diversion are two ways to clear your record of a theft charge. Deferred adjudication requires pleading guilty to the charge and being placed on probation. If probation is completed in full, the deferred adjudication charge results in no conviction with the opportunity to file a petition for non-disclosure.
A pretrial diversion offers a complete dismissal, granting you have a record with no history of theft. If the DA accepts you for pretrial diversion, you enter into a one-year contract that demands community service and zero tolerance for future theft charges.
Answers to Your Questions About Theft Charges
Prior convictions can affect the punishment a defendant will receive for their current theft charges in Texas if they are found guilty. Jail time and/or fines may be increased due to previous convictions. In addition, if you have a felony or misdemeanor conviction in Texas, it may be it difficult to get a loan, a job or a place to live.
Read more about how prior convictions affect Houston theft cases.
There are a few reasons that a theft case might be dismissed in Harris County. Some of the most common reasons include:
– Lack of probable cause
– An illegal search by the police
– Insufficient or lost evidence
A pretrial diversion is another possible means of getting a theft case dismissed.
Read more about getting a theft case dismissed in Houston.
The increasing popularity of online shopping has led to an increase in package theft, also commonly known as “porch piracy” — the taking of someone else’s delivered packages. The Texas state legislature has taken steps to discourage the crime of package theft, amending Section 1, Chapter 31 of the Texas Penal Code by adding section 31.20 to increase potential criminal charges depending on the number of items stolen.
For example, stealing up to 10 packages or pieces of mail is a state jail felony that carries the potential of a fine up to $10,000 and between 180 days and two years of jail time. Stealing 50 or more pieces of mail could result in a second-degree felony charge that can carry a fine of up to $10,000 and between 2 and 20 years of jail time.
Read more about avoiding package theft charges in Texas.
Get Help From a Houston Attorney with Experience
Lisa Shapiro Strauss is a former prosecutor with more than 20 years of experience in defending the rights of those facing criminal charges. If you have been charged with accepting stolen property in Houston, contact Lisa Shapiro Strauss for a criminal defense attorney who can explain your options, analyze your case, and protect your rights.