Theft is a common type of crime that occurs often in Texas and across the country. Theft is a term that encompasses a wide variety of actions. Theft can range from minor shoplifting charges to more serious charges such as robbery and auto theft. A charge of theft may be a misdemeanor or felony, and the consequences can vary greatly if convicted. One thing is certain - a criminal theft conviction can have a negative impact on your life for years to come. If you are charged with theft, you will want to vigorously defend the charges with help from an experienced theft defense attorney in Brownsville, TX.
Theft Crimes in Texas
Many crimes are categorized under the general heading of theft. Larceny is another name for theft. Theft of larceny in Texas occurs when a person unlawfully “appropriates property with the intent to deprive the owner.” (Texas Penal Code Section 31.03(a)). Thefts may range in severity from misdemeanors to felonies. Some theft crimes are relatively minor, such as shoplifting, while others are more complex, such as embezzlement. However, both of these are examples of theft crimes.
Common Misdemeanor and Felony Theft Charges
Several theft crimes are more common than others. These include:
Passing bad checks
Buying stolen property
Shoplifting occurs when someone takes property from a store without paying or when someone shows intent to steal. You could also be charged under this theft if you changed the price tags on merchandise or removed security tags. Shoplifting charges may be misdemeanors or felonies based on the value of the stolen property.
Passing bad checks means that someone writes a check without having the funds available to cash it. Generally, theft charges do not apply when someone bounces a check unintentionally. Rather, you would have to have written the check with the intent to steal to be charged with theft. An example of passing a bad or hot check is when someone writes a check for an item and leaves with it. Later, the seller tries to cash the check and finds that there are no funds, or the checks are not legitimate.
Buying or accepting stolen property is a crime. Although you may not have stolen the property yourself, you can still be charged with theft if you buy or accept stolen items. You may be charged with theft if you knew or should have known that property was stolen. For instance, if you purchase an item for $500 with an actual value of $3,000, you are likely aware that the property is stolen.
General theft charges apply in many situations where theft is alleged. These may include such crimes as auto theft, burglary, robbery, fraud cases, embezzlement, money laundering, theft of services, and theft of trade secrets, to name a few. Some theft charges may be federal crimes, while others may be state crimes.
Penalties for Theft Convictions
Many types of penalties apply to theft crimes. Generally, when the value of the goods that were stolen is less than $2,500, the charges are misdemeanors. The penalties for a misdemeanor theft charge with a value of less than $2,500 is up to a year in jail and fines of up to $4,000.
When the value of the stolen property is more than $2,500 and under $30,000, it is typically a federal offense. If found guilty, you could face up to 2 years in state jail and fines of up to $10,000. When the value is over $30,000, the penalties increase to up to 20 years in federal prison and fines of up to $10,000. When the value of the stolen property is more than $300,000, a guilty party could face up to 99 years in jail and fines of up to $10,000.
In addition to these penalties, if you are found guilty, you will also likely face additional punishments. You will usually have to pay restitution for the value of the stolen property. You may also have to fulfill community service and will often be on probation for a period of time following the completion of your sentence.
Factors That Impact Penalties
There are guidelines in place that give judges some leeway when determining a sentence. If you are found guilty of a crime, you will have the opportunity to present mitigating factors. These are factors that could help to reduce your sentence. Your employment record, having no prior convictions, and being a contributing community member can help lessen the sentence.
On the other hand, some aggravating factors might exist that could place your sentence in the upper limits. For example, if you have previous theft convictions, if you were already on probation, or if a weapon was used in the crime, the judge could use these to impose a harsher sentence. A knowledgeable theft defense attorney will advocate on your behalf to help you get the best results possible.
Defending Texas Theft Charges
It is in your best interest to vigorously defend Texas theft charges. There are many possible ways that your theft defense attorney will work to defend your case. The prosecutor must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. You will want your attorney present before you speak to law enforcement or give a statement.
There are several potential ways to defend the case, depending on the circumstances of the incident. If you did not intend to steal the item, if the property is yours, or if you were intoxicated at the time may all be ways to defend the charges. If you were young at the time of the theft, that could also play a role in your defense.
If law enforcement obtained evidence in a manner that was not legal, your attorney will file a motion to exclude it from the case. If that happens, it could make it more difficult to prove the case against you. Sometimes, a person could have several charges stemming from the same incident. In some cases, you may be offered a plea deal to accept a guilty plea on a lesser charge.
Theft charges can be serious, and if found guilty, you could face severe penalties. A criminal record could harm you and your family in all aspects of your life. You will want to seek legal representation as soon as possible to assist you in defending theft charges. Have you been charged with theft in the state of Texas? Contact our legal team at Sosa Law at (956) 317-5443 for help with your defense.