Theft Criminal Defense

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Theft Charges in the Texas Penal Code

Chapter 31 of the Texas Penal Code contains variations of the crime of theft. Theft is generally defined in Texas Penal Code § 31.03 as unlawfully appropriating, or taking, the belongings of another.

This includes traditional ideas of stealing, including shoplifting, as well as dealing in stolen goods if the person accused knew or had reason to know they were stolen. The classification of the crime depends on the value of the items stolen, how many prior offenses and, sometimes, what item was stolen:

  • For property worth less than $100, a Class C Misdemeanor for a first offense and a Class B Misdemeanor for a subsequent theft conviction;
  • A Class B Misdemeanor for property worth between $100 and $750;
  • Class A Misdemeanor for property worth between $750 and $2,500;

A state jail felony if the property:

  • Is worth between $2,500 and $30,000;
  • Is livestock, less than 10 heads and is worth less than $30,000;Is a firearm;
  • Is worth less than $2,500 and the accused has been convicted more than once for theft; or
  • Is aluminum, copper, brass or bronze worth less than $20,000.

A third degree felony if the property:

  • Is worth between $30,000 and $150,000; or
  • Is livestock worth less than $150,000;

A second degree felony if the property:

  • Is worth between $150,000 and $300,000; or
  • Is an ATM machine or the contents of an ATM machine worth less than $300,000; or 
  • A first degree felony if the property is worth more than $300,000.

Any of the charges can be upgraded if the victim was elderly, a nonprofit organization, a public servant, a government contractor, a Medicare provider or if the accused caused a fire alarm to go off, deactivated a fire alarm, deactivated a theft prevention device or used a shielding device to work against anti-theft devices.

Theft by check means intentionally writing a bad check to purchase goods. It is presumed that a person writing the check knew it was a hot check if there was no open account associated with the check or if there were insufficient funds and the check writer did not pay within 10 days of notice.

Credit card or debit card fraud may operate in the same manner as theft by check, or a fraudulent or stolen one could be used. Debit card and credit card fraud is a state jail felony.

Theft of service means that the accused intentionally and knowingly took advantage of another person’s services without paying. Theft of services charges follow the same guidelines for value as theft of property.

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