In Texas, theft of any kind is a serious crime. Most individuals have always perceived “theft” as taking someone else’s property without permission. Though one of the most common types of theft is directly taking someone else’s property, this isn’t the only type that will land you in a lot of trouble.
Larceny, the legal term for theft, carries various penalties depending on the value of the items involved, the criminal record of the accused, and some circumstances surrounding the crime. There are several different types of theft crimes in Texas and if you’ve been accused or charged with such a crime, knowing the difference can be crucial to the outcome of an arrest or an accusation.
One of the most common forms of theft crimes is taking items from a retail establishment without paying for them. Whether shoplifting temptations are caused by thrill-seekers, someone who plans to flip the item for profit or any other reason, the consequences for shoplifting crimes in Texas remain the same.
Shoplifting crimes can vary, depending on the value of stolen items and circumstances, ranging from Class C misdemeanor charges to Class A misdemeanor charges. However, depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding the case, it may be possible to agree to the dismissal of the case if the property is returned.
In addition to these criminal penalties, you could also face civil consequences from the merchant. Texas law allows the business that you shoplifted from to seek monetary damages to compensate them in their loss-prevention activities. So, not only is there a criminal issue, you could be sued by the store as well.
The steps you take and how you react immediately after you’ve been accused of shoplifting are paramount to your defense. Ensure you consult a criminal defense attorney immediately after an arrest.
2. Burglary and Robbery
Although they are often used interchangeably in conversation, burglary and robbery differ in at least one distinct way. Burglary occurs when an individual enters a building, whether a home, office, or other establishments without permission and with the intent to commit a felony, theft, or assault.
Robbery differs from burglary in the fact that burglary can occur without anyone present where the theft happens, but a robbery is distinctly identified as with individuals present. A robbery is considered a violent crime in the state of Texas, but the victim does not have to exclusively have suffered a physical injury in order to convict an individual of robbery – simply placing someone in fear of bodily injury is enough to convict you of robbery. If you go so far as to display a dangerous weapon, you are now facing a first-degree felony.
3. Hot checks
More commonly called ‘writing bad checks today, a ‘hot check’ is an old term for one of the most common forms of theft crimes in Texas. If you’ve ever willingly written a check, knowing there aren’t enough funds in the account to cover the purchase and knowing the check will bounce, theft has occurred. In Texas, the willingly part is examined in terms of did you write the check, not whether or not you knew money was in the account at the time you wrote the check.
Depending on the value of the property, the maximum penalties for writing bad checks include fines, fees, restitution, court fees, and potentially jail time if the value is high. If you’ve been arrested for writing a bad check, it’s important to consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to have the case dismissed or charges dropped if the check and restitution owed is paid.
4. Receiving stolen property
In Texas and many other states, you don’t have to directly steal someone else’s property from them in order to commit theft. If you knowingly receive or accept stolen property or goods, you are guilty of theft. However, this type of theft can become complex in certain situations, because simply “knowing” property was stolen can also translate to meaning that individual should have known the property was stolen.
For example, if you’re buying a high-value item (say an Apple iWatch) for a very cheap price ($20 as opposed to the $300 retail price), according to the law, you “should” reasonably assume that the item was stolen. However, whether you should reasonably know or not, this doesn’t mean you’re automatically guilty of a theft crime. An experienced attorney can help you determine the best defense if you’ve been accused of theft after buying or receiving stolen property.
5. Using a vehicle without permission
Any individual may believe using someone else’s vehicle without their express permission isn’t a big deal, but Texas charges such activities as the unauthorized use of a vehicle, which is a state jail felony. This type of crime is punishable by anywhere from 6 months to 2 years in state jail and a hefty fine, up to $10,000, even if the car is only worth $500.
Unlike general theft crimes, an auto theft crime does not require the intention of deriving an individual of their property, meaning you can simply borrow someone’s car without the intention of keeping or selling it and still be charged. Prosecutors often go straight for the unauthorized use of a vehicle charge, because they do not have to prove intent to deprive the owner of their property, making this offense easy to prove in court.
6. Debit/Credit Card Abuse
Another theft type crime that results in a felony charge, even if you only use someone else’s card to purchase lunch at your favorite fast-food restaurant is Debit/Credit Card abuse. Using someone else’s card, without their permission, results in a State Jail Felony Charge, even if you only spent $5 on the card. If you used the card of an elderly person, meaning someone 65 or older, that will result in you facing a Third Degree Felony charge.
Theft crimes carry various punishments, ranging from fines to jail time, but even if you’re convicted for a theft crime and must pay a fine, you’ll still carry a conviction on your record. The problem with this, even if a fine is paid, theft is a crime of moral turpitude, deeming you untrustworthy by employers, colleges, landlords, licensing agencies and more. A theft conviction of any kind can have life-altering consequences, which is why you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
If you’ve been arrested for a theft crime, contact my office immediately.