Theft in Texas

What is theft under Texas law?

Texas Penal Code, Title 7, §31.03 states that theft includes many different types of offenses, from shoplifting clothing to stealing a car. The only requirement for an offense to be theft is that it involves taking another person’s property without permission. You don’t have to keep the property for a long time, or at all, in order to commit theft. All that matters is that you take the property from its rightful owner.

What is general theft?

General theft is a misdemeanor or felony theft charge that simply involves taking something from another person without his or her permission.

What does the police have to show in order to charge you with theft?

In order to charge you with theft, the police must show that you knew you took someone else’s property without permission, and that you have – or had – possession of the property.

What is the punishment for theft in Texas?

Under Texas Penal Code, Title 7, §31.03, punishment for theft varies according to the value of the item stolen. The higher the value of the item, the more serious the punishment will be. If you have stolen more than one item, then the values of all the items added together determines the level of punishment. In any case, your theft conviction will become part of your criminal record.

If the stolen item’s value is:

·        Less than $50.00, or less than $20.00 if by check, it is a Class C misdemeanor, with a fine not more than $500.00

·        $50.00 - $500.00, or $20.00 - $500.00 if by check, it is a Class B misdemeanor, with a jail sentence of not more than 180 days, and/or a fine not more than $2,000.00

·        $500.00 - $1,500.00, it is a Class A misdemeanor, with a jail sentence of not more than 1 year, and/or a fine not more than $4,000.00

·        $1,500.00 - $20,000.00, it is a felony, with a state jail sentence of 180 days to 2 years, and/or a fine not more than $10,000.00

·        $20,000.00 - $100,000.00, it is a third-degree felony, with a state prison sentence of 2 to 10 years, and/or a fine not more than $10,000.00

·        $100,000.00 - $200,000.00, it is a second-degree felony, with a state prison sentence of 2 to 20 years, and/or a fine not more than $10,000.00

·        $200,000.00 or more, it is a first-degree felony, with a state prison sentence of 5 to 99 years, and/or a fine of not more than $10,000.00

 

Is the punishment more serious if it is not my first offense?

Under certain conditions, you can receive a more serious punishment if it is not your first offense. For instance, a Class B misdemeanor theft charge can increase one level if you have a previous theft condition, as per Texas Penal Code, Title 7, §31.03.

Are certain theft offenses automatically felonies?

Yes. Under Texas Penal Code, Title 7, §31.03, if the theft involves firearms or metals such as copper, for instance, it is automatically a felony charge.

Are there any civil penalties for theft?

Yes. Under the Texas Theft Liability Act, victims of a theft can sue for damages in a case separate from the criminal case. The victim can collect actual damages, plus up to $1,000.00 against an individual, or up to $5,000.00 against the parents or guardians of a minor. 

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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