Under Texas law, theft is when someone “unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of the property.” (Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 31.03.) So, you are committing theft if you take something that doesn’t belong to you, without consent or any other legal justification, and at the time of the offense, you have no intention of giving the property back to its rightful owner.
Basic Information on Theft Offenses:
Texas classifies theft offenses according to the value of the property or services stolen, and sometimes by the type of property that is stolen. Because of that, the penalty range for theft is quite broad, starting with Class C Misdemeanor Theft (petty theft) punishable by fine only, all the way up to First Degree Felony Theft, punishable by 5 – 99 years in prison.
Although some thefts, particularly petty thefts, may seem inconsequential, the allegation itself can have damaging consequences on your personal and professional life. Because theft offenses involve an element of dishonesty, they are categorized as crimes of “moral turpitude”, and can negatively affect your admission and eligibility into college, graduate school, and prevent licensure by some state boards.
Theft Crimes in Texas:
- Burglary: Texas law classifies burglary as entering a building without the owner’s permission with the intent to commit a felony, theft or assault
- Fraud: Obtaining property, services or money through deception qualifies as fraud. This can include identity theft, credit card fraud and check forgery
- General theft: General theft is the act of taking property that belongs to someone else without his or her permission
- Possession of Stolen Property: Buying or accepting property that you know to be stolen also qualifies as a theft crime in Texas
- Robbery: This type of theft involves intentionally or knowingly causes bodily injury, or fear of bodily injury, during the course of committing theft
- Shoplifting: This is defined as deliberately taking products from a store without paying the full value of them
Theft by Check:
Paying for an item with a check when the checking account does not have sufficient funds to cover the amount or the account is closed qualifies as theft by check.
Penalties for Theft:
- Class C Misdemeanor: Property value less than $50, or less than $20 if by check = up tp $500 fine
- Class B Misdemeanor: Property value more than $50 but less than $500 = up to $2,000 fine, and up to 180 days in county jail
- Class A Misdemeanor: Property value between $500 – $1,500 = up to $4,000 fine, and up to 1 year in county jail
- State Jail Felony: Property value between $1,500 – $20,000. May also include theft of property of a specific type, including guns and certain livestock = incarceration in state jail from 180 days to 2 years and up to $10,000 fine
- 3rd Degree Felony: Property value or services stolen between $20,000 – $100,000 = 2 to 10 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 fine
- 2nd Degree Felony: Property or services between $100,000 to $200,000 = 2 to 20 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 fine
- 1st Degree Felony: Property or services stolen is $200,000 or more = 5 to 99 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 fine