Theft & Breach Of Contract In Texas
To explore the differences between theft and breach of contract in Texas, it’s important to define the two terms first.
Theft In The State Of Texas
As per the Texas Penal Code 31.03, theft occurs if a person appropriates property unlawfully from another person. Unlawful appropriation can involve deception to convince a victim to “hand over” their property. Theft in Texas is classified depending on how much is stolen i.e. Class C misdemeanor, Class B misdemeanor, Class A misdemeanor, State Jail felony, all the way to first-degree theft, with Class C misdemeanor being charges for stealing the least amount (less than $50) and first-degree theft for stealing $200,000 or more.
Breach Of Contract In Texas
For a contract to be breached in Texas, there must be certain elements in play i.e., the contract itself (must be present and valid). There should also be a material breach (by the defendant), performance/tendered performance (by the plaintiff), and damages sustained by a plaintiff because of that breach.
For a contract to exist in the first place, some elements must be present i.e., an offer, acceptance, meeting of minds, communication between each party consenting to the terms/conditions of the agreement, and execution/delivery of the contract (with the intention that it should be mutual and binding). If one party to a contract breaches that contract, the other party/s are excused/discharged from further performance.
Breach Of Contract Leading To Theft Charges
A breach of contract can be enhanced to criminal theft if there is prove that the defendant had fraudulent intent.
Example Of A Breach Of contract Becominbg Theft In TX
There is a thin line between breach of contract and theft. For a breach of contract to be termed as theft, there has to be intentional misappropriation.
If a construction contractor receives money from a customer to build a house and they promise to do so in say, three months for less than the cost of similar constructions in the area, then they abandon the project after receiving payment, there are grounds for theft charges if they agree to refund the customer but fail to do so.
A theft charge would be inevitable, especially if the contractor has prior charges or there are other customers who have had similar or related problems with the contractor. While such an instance can qualify as a breach of contract, if there is evidence that the contractor misappropriated the money (used it for other purposes other than building the house as agreed) and then failed to refund as agreed, the contractor can be found to have intentionally misappropriated funds based on deception which translates to theft.
Most importantly, there has to be evidence of the intention to steal. Coupled with unrealistic promises meant to lure customers and prior problems with other customers, there is clear fraudulent intent.
There’s more to theft and breach of contract charges in Texas than what is discussed above. Individuals who find themselves in contractual disputes or facing theft charges should seek the assistance of an experienced attorney for theft charges. Breach of contract charges that “graduate” to theft can attract hefty fines and long jail times, depending on the amount in question.
You should talk to a prominent Fort Worth Theft Lawyer for further assistance.