Texas Theft Generally:
A person commits a theft under Texas law if (s)he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of the property. Appropriation of property is unlawful if it is without the owner’s consent; the property is stolen and the actor appropriates the property knowing it was stolen by another; or property in the custody of any law enforcement agency was explicitly represented by any law enforcement agent to the actor as being stolen and the actor appropriates the property believing it was stolen by another.
On September 1, 2015 the Texas Legislature adjusted the threshold values for theft cases, here are the updated laws:
Class C Misdemeanor: A person commits a Class C Misdemeanor if the value of the property stolen is less than $100.00 (formerly less than $50.00).
Class B Misdemeanor: A person commits a Class B Misdemeanor if the value of the property stolen is more than $100.00 but less than $750.00 (formerly more than $50.00 but less than $500.00).
Class A Misdemeanor: A person commits a Class B Misdemeanor if the value of the property stolen is more than $750.00 but less than $2,500.00 (formerly more than $500.00 but less than $1,500.00).
State Jail Felony: A person commits a Stat Jail felony if they value of the property stolen is more than $2,500.00 but less than $30,000.00 (formerly more than $1,500.00 but less than $20,000.00).
Possible Defenses to Theft of Property:
In order to be convicted of theft of property the prosecutor must show that the person took the property with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property in question. Therefore, if the State cannot prove that you intended to deprive the rightful owner of the property, you cannot be convicted of theft. The State will attempt to prove a person’s intent by looking at all of the circumstances surrounding the case. For example, many thefts occur in shopping centers, and often times a surveillance camera will capture the events as they take place. The prosecutor may be able to prove the requisite intent to convict a person of theft based on this video footage. Whether or not someone acted with intent can be very subjective and should be discussed with a criminal defense attorney.
Civil Consequences to Theft of Property:
Often times a store will initiate a civil suit against a person that has been accused of theft. Civil actions may be in the form of a demand letter to the person accused of stealing from the store demanding that the person pay the store for the market value of the items allegedly stolen. Whether or not you should repay the store or respond to any civil allegations should be discussed with your defense attorney.
Most Likely Outcomes:
The range of punishment, even for a Class B Misdemeanor POM, is very serious. A $2,000 fine and/or 180 days in jail is not something to be taken lightly. However, if this is your first criminal offense there is a high probability that you will not receive a jail sentence or a very large fine. Depending on individual circumstances, there are a few likely outcomes.
- Deferred Adjudication – this is a type of plea bargain a defendant may be able to enter into. A defendant enters a plea of “no contest” or “guilty” and then is placed on probation for a period of time. If the defendant complies with all the terms of probation the judge will defer finding the defendant guilty (i.e. dismiss the case). At the conclusion of probation the case is effectively dismissed, and then defendant may qualify to petition the court for a nondisclosure and have the records of the case sealed from the public.
- Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) – This option is not always available to every defendant. It requires a lot of effort, both from the defendant and the attorney, to get this outcome. There are certain requirements that must be met before a defendant can get into a PTI program, but if the defendant successfully completes the program the charges will be dismissed. The difference between PTI and deferred adjudication is that a deferred adjudication does not result in a conviction, and a PTI results in an outright dismissal. At the end of a PTI case the defendant may apply to have the case expunged from his record. This means that the records of the case will be destroyed and no one in the general public will be able to find any records that the defendant was ever charged with the crime in question.
- Trial – Sometimes attorneys and prosecutors do not reach an agreement on a POM case. If the State and defense do not reach any type of agreement on how to dispose of a case, then the case will proceed to trial. Criminal trials are split into two parts. First is the “guilt innocence” phase of the trial. During this initial portion of the trial the facts of the case are heard and the jury will decide whether or not the defendant is guilty. If the defendant is found not-guilty the case is dismissed. If the defendant is found to be guilty, then the trial will proceed to the second phase. The second phase of a criminal trial is the “punishment” phase. Defendants may elect to have either the jury or the judge assess punishment. During this phase of trial the defendant will share mitigating factors to the crime and punishment will be assessed.
There are many factors to consider when evaluating any theft of property case, and every case is going to be completely different depending on the circumstances surrounding the case. When evaluating a case your attorney will obtain the evidence the State intends to use against you. This evidence may include audio recordings; police reports; dash-cam video footage; 911 phone calls; scene photos; probable cause affidavits; search warrants; surveillance video footage and much more.
The Law Office of James Tittle handles all types of criminal cases, and would be happy to evaluate your Theft case. We understand that this is a very frightening experience, and we take the time to fully explain the process to you so you can make an informed decision. Don’t just hire an attorney that knows the law, hire someone to fight for you. Call our League City office today at (281) 814-5323 or visit us on the web at www.leaguecitylaw.com to consult with an attorney today.
 Texas Penal Code 31.03(a)