Even a minor theft charge can cause a great deal of embarrassment, damage to your reputation and career, and leave you with a permanent criminal record.
When you are charged with a theft or fraud offense in Texas, people you see every day may suddenly view you differently. Your family might wonder about what other illegal acts you have committed. Your supervisors may investigate your work history, or worse yet, let you go with little or no explanation. Your acquaintances in the community may treat you differently. However, there is a way to combat this: hire an experienced and trusted Houston theft & fraud lawyer from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett. Whether the police have made a mistake, you made an error in judgment, or this case arose from a misunderstanding, attorney Ned Barnett will protect your rights and fight for your exoneration.
If you are accused of stealing or committing fraud, contact an experienced attorney immediately. Call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett today at (713) 222-6767 for a free and confidential case consultation.
Texas Theft and Fraud Crimes
There are a number of theft and fraud offenses you can be charged with in Texas, including:
- Misdemeanor Theft– If you are accused of taking another person’s property without consent or making a payment, you may be charged with theft. You can also be charged with theft for acts such as embezzlement, forgery, fraud, and robbery. If the value of the property you allegedly stole was less than $2,500, you will be charged with a misdemeanor. If you have, however, been charged with theft before, then your penalties may be increased. Learn more about the offense of theft and the potential penalties for a class C, B, or A misdemeanor from a Houston theft & fraud lawyer today.
- Felony Theft– If you are accused of unlawfully appropriating another person’s property valued at more than $2,500, you may face a felony theft charge. Depending on the type of property stolen and its value, you may face a state jail, third-degree, second-degree, or first-degree felony. To learn more about the felony theft and the possible punishments, contact attorney Ned Barnett today.
- Receiving Stolen Property– If you receive or purchase an item you know or reasonably should have known was stolen, you can be charged with a crime and punished the same as if you committed the actual theft. You may be charged with a misdemeanor or felony depending on the value of the property you are being accused of stealing. Contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett to learn how to best defend against this offense.
- Burglary– You can be charged with burglary if you entered a home or other building without consent, and with the intent to commit another crime inside. This crime is often theft, though it does not have to be. Depending on the type of building you entered and the crime you intended to commit, you may be charged with a state jail, second-degree, or first-degree felony. There are no misdemeanor burglary offenses in the state of Texas. Learn more about what constitutes burglary and how to defend yourself by contacting an attorney as soon as possible.
- Credit Card Fraud– You may be convicted of credit card fraud if you use another person’s debit or credit card without their consent; you use an expired, revoke, or canceled card; or you create a fake card. This is typically a state jail felony. However, you may face a third-degree felony charge if your actions harmed an individual over the age of 65. Learn more about this offense and how attorney Ned Barnett can help.
- Check Forgery– If you sign a check that is not your own or try to use a check that is not yours with the intent to defraud another person or business, you may be charged with a class A misdemeanor or a state jail felony. Contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett to find out how a Houston theft & fraud attorney can help.
- Identity Theft– You may be charged with a felony if there is evidence you used another individual’s personal identifying information without their permission to obtain money or services. If you want to learn more about what actions constitute identity theft and the harsh penalties you face if convicted of such a crime, call Houston theft & fraud Lawyer Ned Barnett today.
The Criminal Justice Process
You can be arrested for a theft or fraud crime either during the commission of the offense or after a criminal investigation. If the police conducted a criminal investigation first, then they may obtain a search warrant or a felony indictment before you are arrested and booked into jail. Once you are arrested, the criminal justice process begins.
You will go before a magistrate within 48 hours of your arrest. At this brief hearing, you will be told your rights and the charges being leveled against you. The magistrate will also decide the conditions of your release.
If you are being charged with a misdemeanor, a prosecutor will go ahead and file a complaint. However, if prosecutors want to charge you with a felony, then they must go before a grand jury to indict you. This is a private proceeding during which prosecutors present evidence that you committed the offense before a jury of 12 of your peers. These individuals decide whether there is probable cause that you committed the crime, which is necessary to indict you and move forward with felony charges.
Once the complaint or indictment is filed, your first court hearing will be your arraignment. At this hearing, a judge will read you the charges against you and ask you to submit a plea. If you plead guilty, your next hearing may be your sentencing. However, typically you will plead not guilty to give yourself time to work with our Houston criminal law attorneys.
There may be a number of pre-trial hearings and conferences during which your attorney may negotiate a plea bargain on your behalf. Accepting a plea may be the best way to minimize the consequences of a conviction. However, it may not be the right path for you. If not, you and your Houston theft & fraud Lawyer use this time to prepare your defense.
Statutory Penalties for Theft and Fraud Convictions
If you are convicted of a theft or fraud crime, you face a penalty based on the level of the misdemeanor or felony charge.
- First-degree felony- A first-degree felony is the highest possible charge for a theft offense, and is punishable by 5 to 99 years or life in prison, and fines of up to $10,000.
- Second-degree felony- Second-degree felony convictions are punishable by 2 to 20 years in state prison, fines up to $10,000.
- Third-degree felony- This felony leads to 2 to 10 years in state prison, and a fine up to $10,000.
- State jail felony- This is the lowest level felony punishable by 180 days to 2 years in state jail, and fines up to $10,000.
- Class A misdemeanor- The most serious misdemeanor charge can lead to up to 1 year in county jail, and a fine up to $4,000.
- Class B misdemeanor- Conviction of a class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 180 days in jail, with a fine up to $2,000.
- Class C misdemeanor- This is the lowest level misdemeanor, and is punishable by a fine up to $500.
Additional Consequences of Conviction
If you are convicted of a theft or fraud offense, you can expect a number of significant consequences even after you complete your statutory punishment. Common effects of a misdemeanor or felony conviction include:
- Difficulty obtaining or keeping a job
- Difficulty during the college admission process
- Difficulty obtaining financial aid
- Ineligibility for or difficulty obtaining professional licenses
- A reduction in your child custody or visitation
- Visa denial
- Loss of your voting rights for a period of time
Contact a Houston Theft and Fraud Lawyer for Help
If you have been charged with any type of offense related to theft or fraud, do not hesitate to reach out to attorney Ned Barnett. With decades of experience behind him, he has the knowledge and skills needed to defend you against these allegations. As a criminal lawyer certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, he understands how to handle all manner of cases. He will thoroughly investigate your situation, examine every piece of evidence, and determine the strongest defense strategy available under the law.
Contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett today to learn more. Contact us online, or call us at (713) 222-6767 to schedule a free case consultation.