Felony theft charges in Texas can take a variety of forms and refer to many different crimes. In Texas, felony theft is a serious crime that will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
The consequences of being convicted of felony theft are far reaching. Not only are you facing serious jail time, fines, and a permanent criminal record, theft is considered a crime of moral turpitude. Employers may be hesitant to hire you and the social stigma can last indefinitely.
If you have been accused or charged with felony theft, it is essential that you enlist the help of an experienced Houston theft lawyer right away. Having a qualified and skilled defense attorney by your side will improve your chances of avoiding a conviction and is the most important decision you can make to protect your future.
Defining Felony Theft Charges in Texas
Theft is a term that refers to a wide variety of crimes such as shoplifting, fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, or burglary. In Texas, most theft crimes have been consolidated into one single theft offense, which can be found in section 31.03 of the Penal Code. Theft is defined as the unlawful appropriation of property with intent to deprive the rightful owner of that property.
Appropriation of property is unlawful if:
(1) it is without the owner’s effective consent;
(2) the property is stolen and the actor appropriates the property knowing it was stolen by another; or
(3) 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.
Penalties for a Felony Theft Conviction
Section 31.03(e) outlines the range of punishment for theft offenses. For the most part, the value of the stolen property dictates the punishment level. In some cases, the punishment will depend on the type of property stolen. The Texas Legislature adjusted the values correlating to the punishment level for theft offenses. Those amendments went into effect as of September 1, 2015.
- State Jail Felony Theft — The value of the stolen property is more than $2,500 but less than $30,000. It is also punishable as a state jail felony if the property stolen is a firearm, if the accused has previously been convicted two or more times of any theft offense, or the value of the property stolen is less than $20,000 and is aluminum, bronze, copper or brass. A state jail felony carries a punishment of 180 days to 2 years in a state jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- Third-Degree Felony Theft — The value of the stolen property is more than $30,000 but less than $150,000. A third-degree felony carries a punishment of 2 to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- Second-Degree Felony Theft — The value of the stolen property is more than $150,000 but less than $300,000. It is also punishable as a second-degree felony if the value of the property is less than $300,000 and the property stolen is an ATM machine or the contents of an ATM machine. A second-degree felony carries a punishment of 2 to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- First-Degree Felony Theft — The value of the stolen property is $300,000 or more. A first-degree felony carries a punishment of 5 to 99 years or life in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Penalties may also be enhanced to the next grade level under certain conditions. For example, if the accused is a public servant and the stolen property came into his or her possession by virtue of his or her job or if property was stolen from an elderly individual or nonprofit organization.
In addition to the penalties previously mentioned, you will also have a permanent criminal record if convicted. Theft is considered a crime of moral turpitude, which means that you could lose your job or professional licenses. You may also face a lawsuit under the Texas Theft Liability Act for actual damages related to the theft. This most often occurs in shoplifting cases.
Speak with an Experienced Houston Felony Theft Lawyer
If you are facing felony theft charges, contact the Law Offices of Ned Barnett immediately to learn your options for a defense. Ned Barnett has over 20 years of experience defending clients against felony theft charges and knows how to challenge the prosecutor’s case against you. He is a board certified criminal lawyer with extensive trial experience that includes trying criminal cases as a state and federal prosecutor in the Houston area. He draws on his training and thorough knowledge of criminal defense law to help his clients achieve the best possible result.
Barnett opened his law practice in 1994 and the personal and professional contacts he has developed throughout the Houston area are invaluable to his clients. He is well respected in the legal community and has an excellent reputation for always providing a compelling defense. Barnett is dedicated to providing sophisticated legal advocacy and will go above and beyond to protect your rights.
To schedule a consultation, contact the Law Offices of Ned Barnett today at (713) 222-6767.