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According to Texas Law, theft is defined as taking anything of value (i.e., property) with the intention of permanently depriving the property owner. As per Texas Law, receiving or selling goods you know are stolen also qualifies as theft. There’s more; failing to perform affirmative acts that prove items being transferred or sold aren’t stolen can also qualify as theft.
For instance, car buyers in Texas must ask for verification of ownership to prove the car isn’t stolen. Failure to do this could lead to theft charges even if you didn’t know the vehicle was stolen before being sold to you. The definition of theft in Texas extends to writing fraudulent checks when you don’t have funds. Such a scenario is known as theft by check.
Like most states in the U.S., theft is classified based on the value of property/service stolen. In some cases, it can be classified based on the kind of property in question.
Theft in Texas: Classification & Penalties
- Theft as a Class C misdemeanor
If the stolen property/service is valued at less than $50, the theft is considered as a Class C misdemeanor as per Texas Penal Code Ann. 31.03(e)(1)(A). Class C misdemeanor offenses attract fines not exceeding $500. The offenses don’t attract any prison time.
- Theft as a Class B misdemeanor
If the stolen property/service is valued at $50 or more (less than $500), the theft is considered a Class B misdemeanor. The theft in question also qualifies as a Class B misdemeanor if it involves theft of identification documents i.e., a driver’s license or another ID card. Class B misdemeanors in Texas attract a jail term of 180 days or less and/or fines not exceeding $2,000 as per Texas Penal Code 12.22.
- Theft as a Class A misdemeanor
If the stolen property/service is valued at $500 or more (but is less than $1,500), the theft is considered a Class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors in Texas attract a jail term not exceeding a year and/or fines not exceeding $4,000 as per Texas Penal Code 12.21.
- Theft as State Jail felony
If the stolen property/service is valued at $1,500 or above (but is less than $20,000), the theft is considered as state jail felony. Theft can also qualify as state jail felony if the property in question is of a unique kind i.e., certain livestock (less than $20,000) or a firearm. This is according to the Texas Penal Code 31.03(e)(4). State jail felony attracts a jail term of 180 days – 2-years and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
- Theft as third-degree felony
If the stolen property/service is valued at $20,000 or more (but doesn’t exceed $100,000), the theft qualifies as third degree felony. Theft can also qualify as third degree felony if the property in question is certain livestock whose value doesn’t exceed $100,000 as per Texas Penal Code 31.03(e) (5). In Texas, third degree felony crimes attract jail time ranging from 2-10 years and fines not exceeding $10,000.
- Theft as second-degree felony
If the stolen property/service is valued at $100,000 or more (but doesn’t exceed $200,000), the theft qualifies as second degree felony as per Texas Penal Code 31.03(e)(6). Second degree felony crimes attract 2-20 years in jail and fines not exceeding $10,000.
- Theft as first-degree felony
If the stolen property/service is valued at $200,000 or more, the theft qualifies as first degree felony as per Texas Penal Code 31.03(e)(7). First degree felony crimes attract 5-99 years in jail and fines not exceeding $10,000.
Theft and civil penalties in Texas
Persons found guilty of theft in Texas may be liable to other penalties besides criminal penalties. Victims of theft (such as store owners in shoplifting cases) can get monetary awards that include the actual damages resulting from the theft i.e., retail value of item/s stolen if they aren’t returned in a sell-able condition. Victims of theft can also get a monetary award not exceeding $1,000 as a civil penalty.
Parents or legal guardians of persons (minors) who are found guilty of theft may also face penalties as per the TTLA (Texas Theft Liability Act). However, monetary recovery is caped to actual damages resulting from the theft. While there is no civil penalty available for parents/legal guardians of guilty minors, monetary recovery is possible up to $5,000.
Theft penalties in Texas with prior convictions
If the person found guilty of theft has a prior conviction for any of the above theft classifications, any theft committed by that individual later in Texas involving property/services valued less than $50 qualifies as Class B misdemeanor as opposed to Class C misdemeanor. This is according to Texas Penal Code 31.03(e)(2)(B).
If the individual found guilty of theft has at least two prior convictions for theft falling under any classification above and the individual later commits theft in Texas involving property/services values less than $1,500, such theft qualifies as state jail felony as opposed to Class A or Class B misdemeanor as per Texas Penal Code 31.03(e)(4)(D).
Can theft charges be enhanced?
Yes. Punishments for theft convictions can be enhanced under specific conditions. For instance, if a government contractor steals from the government, the charges can be enhanced. The same applies to stealing from a nonprofit organization or an elderly person/s. Public servants or public officials who use their status to steal also risk having their charges enhanced. Theft charges can also be enhanced if the thief caused a fire alarm to be activated, or deactivated a fire alarm/theft detector in a retail store preventing it from sounding. Other scenarios include stealing while using a shielding/deactivating instrument to prevent/attempt to prevent detecting of the offense. A Medicare provider who steals from the government will also have their charges enhanced.