Texas Criminal Charges: Theft

Maybe you were pulled over for a busted tail light, and when the officer looked in your car he saw a stack of $20s. Or maybe you were transporting stereos for a buddy that turned out to be stolen, and you had no idea. Or perhaps it all really is just a misunderstanding -- you had every intention of returning your friend's tennis racket, and you just forgot. Whatever the reason, the following information will help you learn the potential penalties for your Texas theft charges.

What Texas Criminal Law Says

According to Texas Penal Code, Title 7, Sec. 31.03, 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 knowingly taking someone else's property without permission. You don’t have to keep the property for a long time, or at all, in order to commit theft. The punishment for theft varies according to the total value of items stolen.

Punishments for Theft:

  • Less than $50.00, or less than $20.00 if by check: Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $500.00 (Sec. 31.03(e)(1)).
  • $50.00 - $500.00, or $20.00 - $500.00 if by check: Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a jail sentence of up to 180 days, and/or a fine up to $2,000.00 (Sec. 31.03(e)(2)).
  • $500.00 - $1,500.00: Class A misdemeanor, with a jail sentence up to one year, and/or a fine up to $4,000.00 (Sec. 31.03(e)(3)).
  • $1,500.00 - $20,000.00: Felony, with a state jail sentence of 180 days to two years, and/or a fine up to $10,000.00 (Sec. 31.03(e)(4)).
  • $20,000.00 - $100,000.00: Third-degree felony, with a state prison sentence of two to 10 years, and/or a fine up to $10,000.00 (Sec. 31.03(e)(4)).
  • $100,000.00 - $200,000.00: Second-degree felony, with a state prison sentence of two to 20 years, and/or a fine up to $10,000.00 (Sec. 31.03(e)(6)).
  • $200,000.00 or more: First-degree felony, with a state prison sentence of five to 99 years, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.00 (Sec. 31.03(e)(5).

Aggravating Factors:

  • Previous Theft Convictions: If you have a record of previous theft conviction, your punishment will increase one level. For example, if you stole a $10 lipstick and you have one prior theft on your record, you will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor (Sec. 31.03(e)(2)(B)).
  • Theft of Firearm or Metals: Any theft that involves guns or metals -- for instance, copper -- is automatically a felony charge (Sec. 31.03(e)(4)).

Civil Penalties:

  • 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 (Sec. 134.001).

Read the full Texas Code for more information.

I've Been Charged with Theft: What's Next?

Traditionally, defense attorneys will poke holes in the prosecutor's arguments that you knew the item you took belonged to someone else. In Texas, there is an added component to the defense strategy: as you can see, the penalties for theft in Texas are entirely dependent on what it is you are charged with having stolen. An attorney with experience fighting Texas criminal charges will know how to argue the value of any items you allegedly stole, in an effort to reduce both the jail time and any fines you might face.

Get a Free Case Evaluation from a Skilled Texas Criminal Law Attorney

Remember: the difference between stealing an item worth $1,000 and an item worth $2,000 is potentially an extra year in jail and an extra $6,000 in fines. You definitely do not want to mess with Texas. Before you agree to any valuation of the items you are charged with stealing or any plea agreement, get a free case evaluation from an attorney with experience challenging valuation of stolen items and other aspects of Texas criminal charges.

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