One of the reasons online shopping is so popular is that the items purchased are delivered directly to your front door, usually within a few days after you place your order. However, if no one’s at home when the items are delivered, they can sit outside on the porch or in the driveway, where they can become a tempting target for thieves.
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Package theft is a problem throughout the year, but it’s especially bad during the holidays.
Taking a package left on a porch may seem like easy pickings, but if you get caught, you could find yourself facing state and federal charges. If found guilty, you could face years of prison time and thousands of dollars in fines.
Package Theft is a Serious Crime in Texas
The Texas state legislature has taken steps to discourage the crime of package theft, or “porch piracy,” as it’s often referred to. Lawmakers have amended Section 1, Chapter 31 of the Texas Penal Code by adding section 31.20. Under section 31.20, the charges become more serious depending on the number of items stolen:
- Stealing up to 10 packages or pieces of mail is a state jail felony; if convicted, you could receive a fine of up to $10,000 and between 180 days and two years of jail time.
- It’s a third-degree felony if more than 10 but fewer than 50 pieces of mail are taken; if convicted you could receive a fine of up to $10,000 and between 2 and 10 years of jail time.
- If 50 or more pieces of mail are appropriated you could be charged with a felony of the second degree; if convicted, you could receive a fine of up to $10,000 and between 2 and 20 years of jail time.
The charges will also increase depending on the value of the property stolen. For instance, stealing property valued at less than $100 could result in Class C misdemeanor charges with fines of up to $500; while stealing property with a value of more than $300,000 could result in first-degree felony charges, with fines of up to $10,000, and 5 to 99 years behind bars.
And package or mail theft isn’t just a state crime. If you steal a package from a post office or a mail truck, you could find yourself being charged with a federal crime. Under federal law, 18 U.S. Code § 1708 a person convicted of stealing or taking any type of mail — including letters, bags, packages, and postcards — could be fined and face up to five years of prison time.
Frequently Asked Questions About Houston Theft Charges
If found guilty of theft charges in Texas, a defendant’s previous convictions can affect the punishment they receive. Convictions from the past may result in increased jail time or fines. You may also have difficulty getting a loan, a job, or a place to live if you have a felony or misdemeanor conviction.
In Harris County, a theft case may be dismissed for a few reasons. Among them are:
– Lack of probable cause
– An illegal search by law enforcement
– Insufficient or lost evidence
Getting a theft case dismissed through pretrial diversion is another option.
Once a victim has an item stolen and they report it to law enforcement. There will then be an investigation, and if there is enough evidence, they will make an arrest. After that, the courts take over, and steps will include:
• Pretrial Hearings
and if necessary,
Get Help from a Theft Attorney in Houston
Being convicted of mail or package theft in Houston could have a devastating impact on your life. In addition to the jail time and fines, the conviction will appear on your permanent record, making it hard for you to find a job, buy a house, or qualify for a loan.
However, being arrested and charged with package theft in Houston or Harris County isn’t the same as being convicted. You can fight the charges with the help of a dedicated, experienced Houston theft lawyer like Lisa Shapiro Strauss. Lisa has successfully defended clients in Houston, Bellaire, West University Place, Meyer Land, Greenway, the Galleria, Spring Branch, and surrounding communities who have been charged with package theft and other crimes. In many instances, Lisa’s representation has resulted in lesser charges or even dismissal of charges for her clients.
Don’t depend on the “mercy” of the court. Take action to protect your rights. Contact the law offices of Lisa Shapiro Strauss to discuss your case.