The Texas Theft Laws You Need To Know

Posted on Apr 25, 2019 by Todd Ver Weire

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “theft”? Is it a masked man reaching into your briefcase when you’re not looking and absconding with your iPad? While directly taking someone else’s property is one type of theft, that’s not all that is legally considered theft by any means. While theft of any kind is a serious crime, it’s important to know the differences between types of theft crimes and the penalties associated with each.

If you’re facing theft charges in the state of Texas, you may be wondering what exactly the consequences could be. You may even be confused why you’ve been charged with theft at all. Here, we’ll examine the definition of theft in the state of Texas, some special cases, and penalties that those charged with theft may face.

What Counts As Theft?

According to the Texas Penal Code, theft occurs when an individual “unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.” (Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 31.03.) This means that any time you take someone else’s belongings without their knowledge and consent, you are committing theft. This also applies if you buy or accept as a gift property that you know has been stolen.

Cases Of Theft

While shoplifting or armed robbery may be what you think of as theft, the Texas Penal Code’s definition applies to a wide range of offenses. There are special provisions and penalties for the following:

  • Debit/Credit Card abuse
  • Theft of livestock
  • Theft of ballots or election envelopes
  • Unauthorized vehicle use
  • Theft of controlled substances
  • Unauthorized use of public utilities
  • And more

For more examples of things you may not have previously considered were theft crimes, check out my list of all the different theft crimes in Texas.

Theft Penalties In Texas

Penalties for theft in the state of Texas can range from a $500 fine to 2-20 years of incarceration, depending on the amount, value, and substance of the stolen items. Theft crimes under $1500 are usually misdemeanors and include fines of $4000 or less. Theft crimes greater than $1500 are usually felonies and will include jail time in addition to fines in the upwards of $10,000. In addition, if you have any prior convictions of theft, the charges may increase, in legal terms enhanced, by one level or more – so you could go from a Class A Misdemeanor to a State Jail Felony.  Also, if you have multiple felony convictions and are charged with a felony theft, the State can seek to punish you as a habitual offender. Penalties also increase if you are in contract with the government, a Medicare provider, or a public servant. As mentioned above, the crime of credit card/debit card abuse is different than other theft cases because it does not matter how much you spent when using the card for the offense to be a State Jail Felony.  So, if you use someone else’s debit card without their permission to by that bottle of water for $2.00, you are looking at a State Jail Felony.  If the owner of the card is considered elderly, meaning 65 or older, then it is a third degree felony, and instead of 180 days to 2 years in the state jail facility, you face 2 years to 10 years in a Texas Department of Corrections prison.  For more information, exceptions, other special cases, and a detailed breakdown of each penalty bracket, see the Texas Penal Code.

Theft crimes are serious business and should not be treated lightly. If you’re convicted, you will carry a conviction on your record for the rest of your life, which will impact your chances with potential employers, landlords, colleges, and more, long after you have paid your fine and tried to move on with your life. If you’re facing theft crime charges, it’s essential to seek the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure you have the best possible defense.

If you’ve been arrested for a theft crime, don’t hesitate to contact my office immediately.