There are many kinds of theft under Texas law, and even under the same kind there are different levels that dictate the kind of punishment that a convicted defendant will have to face. For example, identity theft is one type of theft if it leads to the use of identifying information to get something of value, but it is not a physical object as we normally associate with thievery. The same goes for copyright or piracy crimes.
By definition under the Texas Penal Code (Ann. § 31.03), theft is the unlawful appropriation of property with the intention to take it away permanently from the owner (paraphrased). In layman terms, you have committed theft if you take something that isn’t rightfully yours without planning to give it back without the consent of the owner or without any acceptable justification under the law. There are fine shades to this definition as competent Austin criminal defense lawyers will be quick to detect but which may not be apparent to the untrained eye, which is the reason why it is advisable to consult with a criminal defense lawyer when charged with any crime.
Basically, the severity of an offense is directly proportionate to the financial value of the property or service that was appropriated but in some instances may also be based on the type of property taken. Below are some of the general classifications and criminal consequences for theft in Texas.
- Less than $50 – Class C misdemeanor, fine up to $500, no jail time
- More than $50 but less than $500 or property stolen was an identity card i.e. driver’s license – Class B misdemeanor, fine up to $2,000 and/or jail time up to 180 days
- $500 or more but less than $1,500 – Class A misdemeanor, fine up to $4,000 and/or jail time up to one year
- $1,500 or more but less than $20,000 or certain property such as livestock or firearms valued at less than $20,000 – state jail felony, fine up to $10,000 and/or minimum jail time of 180 days but no more than 2 years
- $20,000 or more but less than $100,000 or certain property such livestock or firearms valued at less than $100,000 – Third degree felony, fine up to $10,000 and/or jail time of two to 10 years
- $100,000 or more but less than $200,000 – Second degree felony, fine up to $10,000 and/or jail time of two to 20 years
- $200,000 or more – First degree felony, fine up to $10,000 and/or jail time of five to 99 years
In addition to criminal penalties, a convicted defendant may also be held civilly liable under the Texas Theft Liability Act.
If you are being charged with theft, don’t try to sweet talk your way out of it because anything you say can be used against you. Seek the advice of a criminal defense lawyer in your area before making any moves.