Theft charges seem straightforward; people steal things and prosecutors charge them with theft. However, theft crimes are more complicated than you might expect because of two main factors: there are many kinds of theft, and the potential penalties of theft must fit the crime. Let’s examine each of these two factors to understand Texas theft charges better.
Kinds of Theft
Which one is theft: an investment manager skimming money from accounts he manages at his corporate job (a crime called embezzlement), a man taking clothing items from a neighborhood retailer without paying for them, or a woman faking an injury to secure a major personal injury insurance payout?
All of the scenarios mentioned above are examples of theft crimes. However, as you can see, they have little in common with each other aside from the fact that something was stolen.
One of the reasons why theft cases are complicated is due to the fact that the designation of the charge (embezzlement, grand theft auto, theft) can drastically change the potential penalties, or in some cases, could result in the prosecution levying multiple criminal charges against the accused.
Common forms of theft crimes include:
- Larceny - Stealing someone’s property without their consent (what most people think about when they think of theft.)
- Embezzlement - When a manager of something steals things that he or she has direct control over as part of a job or social responsibility (will, trust, etc.
- Fraud - Obtaining money under false pretenses like selling broken goods (corporate fraud), faking an injury after an accident (insurance fraud), stealing someones bank information (credit fraud), or misusing public programs (Medicare fraud).
- Burglary - When someone breaks into a building that’s not open to the public to commit a felony, theft, or assault.
- Robbery - A form of larceny that involves the use of force, in other words, theft through violence.
- Aggravated Robbery - The charge consist of burglary with intent to harm, such as assault, or entering with a deadly weapon, such as a firearm.
- Forgery - Reproducing an official document in order to commit an act of theft.
- Shoplifting - Minor act of theft from a store.
- Money Laundering - The act of "cleaning" illegally obtained currency in an attempt to legitimize earnings.
As you can see, there are many kinds of theft charges, and each of these charges has it’s own range of potential penalties depending on the circumstances surrounding the case. Let’s look at some examples of potential penalties to get a better understanding of theft crimes.
Potential Penalties for Theft Crimes
As stated previously, the potential penalties of a theft crime are dependant on the type of theft committed and the circumstances of the theft in question. Therefore, the only way to grasp the differences is to examine some of the maximum penalties found in Texas law.
The maximum potential penalty for the smallest theft charge (property stolen worth less than $100) is a fine of less than $500. Additionally, the convicted would have a Class C misdemeanor on his or her record.
While the penalty for the smallest vanilla theft charge may not seem so bad, the maximum penalties for the top-tier plain theft charge are much worse.
The maximum potential penalties for the most significant basic theft charge (property stolen worth more than $300,000) includes the following:
- Minimum five years of imprisonment up to 99 years in prison; and
- Fine not to exceed $10,000.
Additionally, the convicted would have a first-degree felony on his or her record. As you can see, the potential penalties significantly increase depending on the value of the item stolen. However, certain circumstances can also increase the potential penalties of an act of basic theft.
Circumstances that could influence a vanilla theft charge (and subsequently, theft penalties) include the following:
- Prior theft charges on the accused’s record;
- Certain livestock was stolen;
- A driver’s license was stolen;
- A firearm was stolen;
- A grave is robbed during the theft;
- Something made from aluminum, bronze, copper, or brass was stolen; and
- A controlled substance was stolen from a hospital or similar storage building.
Now that we understand basic theft penalties, let's look at some examples of other thefts and their potential penalties. Potential maximum penalties for a basic robbery case include:
- Minimum two years in prison but not more than 20 years; and
- Fine of up to $10,000.
Additionally, the convicted would have a second-degree felony on his or her record. Potential maximum penalties for a basic burglary in a building other than a habitation include:
- Minimum 180 days in jail, up to two years;
- Fine not to exceed $10,000.
Additionally, the convicted would have a state-jail felony on his or her record. No one wants to face theft crime charges, especially given the penalties mentioned above. Unfortunately, one mistake could result in criminal theft accusations, but criminal defense is possible.
Getting Representation for Texas Theft Crimes
A basic theft crime could be charged as a Class C misdemeanor up to a first-degree felony, but regardless of the crime, defense is possible. If you or a loved one is accused of committing a theft crime in Texas, you have the right to hire experienced representation for your case.
Attorney John L. Venza Jr. has dedicated his life to understanding the intricacies of the law and fighting for the rights of his clients. His passion, determination, tenacity, and legal experience when it comes to criminal charges comes together to form a powerhouse of representation that doesn’t quit.
Are you facing theft charges? Call (281) 817-8737 now for a free consultation for your case. Remember, time is of the essence, so don’t wait until it’s too late.