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Defense Against Theft Charges Enhancement In Texas

It might feel overwhelming when you face theft charges in Texas, especially if it is your first experience dealing with criminal law. You could be concerned about how this occurrence would affect your freedom and future when law enforcement arrests you for theft. Will you spend time in jail? Are theft accusations in Texas subject to enhancements?

Defense Strategies For Theft Charges Enhancement In Texas

What Are Sentence Enhancements?

Criminal charges can go through the enhancement process, from low-level offenses like misdemeanors to severe crimes like felonies. In addition, law enforcement may add a different type of penalty to the original one in a criminal case for committing an infraction in the language of criminal sentencing, often significantly lengthening the sentence for the underlying charge.

There are numerous reasons for adding sentence upgrades. For instance, repeat offenders frequently face charge enhancements. A judge is more likely to impose a harsher, enhanced sentence on an offender who has a criminal history or has already been found guilty.

People who repeatedly commit crimes, as though it were a habit for them, are habitual offenders. As a result, they frequently receive sentence enhancements. Factors that could result in a harsher sentence include:

  • Having or using a weapon while committing a crime.
  • Doing so close to a particular place, like a church or school.
  • Doing an offense against a minor.

Theft Charges In Texas

According to Texas Penal Code Title 7, Section 31.03, a person commits theft if he unlawfully appropriates property to deprive the owner purposely. In other words, if you take or deprive the legitimate owner of their property, you could face theft charges in Texas. The property value will determine the penalty’s severity. The higher the property value, the longer your prison time and the greater the fines.

The prosecution may treat theft offenses as either a misdemeanor or felony. In addition, there is a possibility that they will enhance your charges.

How Are Theft Charges Enhanced?

Under Texas law, the court may enhance theft charges from misdemeanors to felonies. Theft includes many instances where the perpetrator takes goods or services without paying for them, including shoplifting, theft by check, and theft of services.

In Texas, law enforcement considers theft moral turpitude —a conduct shocking to reasonable individuals. As a result, those accused of stealing struggle to find employment after their conviction.

Examples Of Enhancement Of Theft Charges

Theft accusations that begin as misdemeanor offenses are subject to felony enhancements under Texas law. Law enforcement may enhance theft charges by including additional ones, which creates a higher degree of crime.

Law enforcement considers shoplifting charges in Texas as Class A misdemeanors if a person manages to take merchandise totaling $2,600 from various establishments. However, according to Texas law, these minor distinct theft counts could be combined into one theft accusation if the theft targeted various establishments to avoid felony charges. 

In this instance, the court may prosecute the offender with a state jail felony instead of multiple Class A misdemeanors, which carries a potential 180-day to a 2-year prison sentence and fines not exceeding $10,000.

Other Instances

Law enforcement may also enhance charges when an offender has a history of theft accusations. A person will undoubtedly receive heavier penalties and lengthier sentences if the police catch them doing an offense and arrest them again. The mere fact that a person has past stealing convictions can result in Class C misdemeanors enhancement to Class B or higher level offenses.

If the offender took the items using advanced tools, law enforcement in Texas might also enhance theft charges. For instance, even if a shoplifter only takes products worth less than $750, they may still face penalties appropriate to a Class A misdemeanor if they use tools that disable alarms.

In other circumstances, the court may enhance penalties for a theft conviction. For instance, a public servant who commits theft while in their position will undoubtedly face severe accusations. The same applies to government contractors who decide to embezzle state funds. Regardless of the amount involved, stealing from older people or charity organizations carries heavier penalties.

Additionally, medical professionals who steal from the government face more severe theft penalties. Other situations include theft that caused a fire alarm to go off or trigger. Penalties for cases involving the disabling of store theft detectors or fire exit alarms are also harsher.

Based on the particular circumstances of a crime, law enforcement may enhance the severity of the theft charges. Simply put, those who face enhanced theft charges should anticipate harsher punishment that goes above and beyond typical situations.

Can You Challenge Enhancements?

You can contest sentence enhancements at a defendant’s sentencing hearing or during an appeal of the conviction. In these situations, a person must research the sentencing guidelines for the charges they face to make their case. 

The schedules outline the penalties or punishments for the various offenses categories. For federal crimes, there are federal schedules, and for state crimes, there are state schedules. However, every state has a different timetable, and some states, though not all, have theirs based on federal schedules.

The defendant should know that if they plead guilty to a criminal offense and agree to a plea bargain, they may give up their right to appeal the charge and the sentence. Therefore, this essential matter is something a defendant and their defense attorney would want to consider before agreeing to any plea deal the prosecution offers.

If you want to contest a sentence enhancement on appeal, you must obtain the sentencing minutes from the judge. When judges impose a particular sentence, some may occasionally allot too much or insufficient time. So, removing a sentence enhancement is more likely than a sentence on appeal if the offense did not involve violence.

Before waiting for your sentence, a person should always have legal representation at their sentencing hearing. A skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney will know the prospects of enhancement processes and prepare to defend your rights. In addition, they would know the possibilities during sentencing enhancements and the circumstances supporting them for their client’s charges.

It might be conceivable to argue that the facts supporting the enhancement are false. For example, your defense attorney can demonstrate that the facts supporting an improvement are missing in a specific instance. Additionally, they may present evidence supporting the sentencing judge’s leniency.

Defending Against Theft Charges Enhancement in Texas

Defenses Against Theft Charges

Fort Worth theft defense attorneys can successfully defend clients facing theft charges. They can assess your case’s circumstances and develop a successful defense plan by building legal defense strategies.

You Made An Honest Mistake

The fact that you genuinely did not think you were taking the object is one of the most common defenses for theft offenses. According to Texas law, a defendant who appropriates property must know they are dealing with a stolen item. 

For instance, you might think you were the object’s owner when the incident occurred. In this case, you could show that when the police accused you of stealing the item, you were the owner or had permission to access it.

Sometimes defendants fail to return anything they borrowed from a friend or a family member. In Texas, the offender’s intent is a crucial component of stealing allegations. The court cannot find you guilty if the prosecution cannot demonstrate that you meant to steal the object.

You Returned The Property

Usually, returning a reported stolen item will not lead to the dismissal of your case. However, a Texas judge might be more sympathetic to you during the process if you returned stolen items. So, the court may reduce or refrain from enhancing your charges if you present evidence that you returned the stolen goods.

You Were Borrowing The Property

The prosecution must show that you meant to permanently deprive the owner of the goods, services, or value for the court to give you a guilty verdict. You will have a strong defense if you can show that you genuinely believed the property owner had permitted you to borrow the asset.

Entrapment

Entrapment, wherein someone takes advantage of you to steal, is a valid legal defense against theft charges in Texas. However, you must prove that the individual who threatened you must have intended for you to be detained and charged with stealing.

You Were Under Duress

You could claim that you were under duress if you were threatened with damage to yourself or your family when you committed the theft. For instance, you could argue that someone threatened you with violence if you did not conduct the crime. In other cases, gangs will make a threat of harm to deter a person from stealing something.

Do You Need A Criminal Defense Attorney?

Any criminal accusation can be unpleasant, mainly if you are unaware of your legal rights. Therefore, it is essential to exercise your right to silence until you have had the chance to go through your case with an experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer, no matter how alluring it may seem to try to explain away a theft allegation. Your attorney will examine the particulars of your case and craft a solid legal plan to safeguard your freedom and future.

Also See: Civil Penalties For Theft Charges In Texas

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