The Crime of Theft in Texas

The crime of theft occurs in many different forms. In all jurisdictions, including Texas, the underlying premise is that an item belonging to some person or party has been taken by another without permission. A knowledgeable Sugar Land criminal defense lawyer can explain the fine points of Texas law regarding theft.

The primary source of the law of theft in Texas is Texas Penal Code Section 31.03, which defines the act of theft as appropriating property "with the intent to deprive the owner of property." The statute defines "appropriation" as unlawful when it is "without the owner's effective consent." Appropriation may also occur when the property has been stolen by another party, and the person gaining possession to the property knows it was acquired through taking from another party by stealing it. Finally, if a law enforcement agency holds property after notifying another party that it was stolen, acquiring the property from the law enforcement agency by the notified party is an act of unlawful appropriation.

The Texas Penal Code assumes that a taker of property is aware of circumstances that would place a reasonable recipient on notice that the property is stolen. Recovery of the property by a law enforcement agency does not lose its character as being "stolen" merely because it is recovered by a law enforcement agency. The Texas Penal Code also imposes highly specific record retention requirements on pawnbrokers, scrapdealers, and other businesses that take receipt of property from third parties; this is intended to assure that stolen objects will not find their way into the channels of commerce without adequate records to trace their origin.

The law uses many synonyms for the term "theft," including larceny, burglary and stealing. Many such terms incorporate additional requirements not included in the broad scope of "theft" crimes.

Although we usually think of theft as concerning tangible things (jewelry, furniture, etc), inchoate and intangible things may also be stolen. For example, plagiarism incorporates the theft of written materials (sometimes of significant commercial value) and also applies to such things as musical compositions, art works and other creative materials.

A modern and well-litigated aspect of such intellectual and artistic theft is the unauthorized copying of "trade dress" created by one business and imitated by another to attempt to capitalize on the originator's success.

With the burgeoning of the personal computer industry, the deliberate copying of one company's computer features by another invites litigation.

The examples of theft are nearly endless. But not every transfer of property rights or use of similar products constitutes an act of theft. Many products are innocently used without any awareness of possible infringement of the property rights of others. Many uses of property occur without awareness of potential liability.

For a free consultation with dedicated and knowledgeable Sugar Land criminal defense lawyer John Venza, please call 281-971-5660 today.

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