What Is Unlawful Appropriation Of Property In Texas?

One of the most frequent crimes you’ll notice if you’ve watched police shows on television or glanced through your town’s police blotter is robbery. However, there might be a terminology overlap, especially for those unfamiliar with unlawful appropriation, theft, and larceny concepts.

The distinctions and degrees of these offenses can significantly impact criminal charges and sentencing, depending on your state and municipal statutes. Therefore, learning them is crucial to know what you should expect and understand how criminal defense lawyers can help you.

Understanding Unlawful Appropriation Of Property In Texas

Unlawful Appropriation And Theft

In reality, considering taking something that isn’t yours is neither illegal nor criminal. For instance, you might take items from someone’s cart that doesn’t belong to you while shopping in a store. But a transfer of ownership happens when you pay for those things, so you become the legal owner of whatever you paid for in the store. This transfer is what theft law refers to as appropriation.

However, according to Texas Penal Code Title 7, Section 31.03, a person commits theft if they unlawfully appropriate property to deprive the owner. It also defines unlawful appropriation in the following situations: 

  • There is no effective consent.
  • The actor knows another person stole it.
  • An agent explicitly represented the property in the custody of any law enforcement agency to the accused as a stolen parcel, and they appropriate the property believing another stole it.

What Is Effective Consent?

Effective consent is expressed words or acts that are mutually intelligible, freely provided, and reflect a willingness to engage in the current activity discussed by involved parties. However, it is ineffective if a party obtains it through trickery, physical violence, threats, intimidation, or coercion.

A threat exists when another person’s words or actions would have forced a reasonable person to consent to an activity they otherwise would not have granted in the absence of the threat. 

Meanwhile, intimidation happens when someone utilizes their presence to threaten you without making physical contact with you. It also occurs when they put you in fear due to intimidating behavior when you know the attacker’s previous history of violence. 

Coercion happens when an initiator behaves in a way that breaches social norms of respect, such as applying pressure or oppression that leads the object of the conduct to engage in undesired activity or behavior.

When discussing effective consent, one must remember that past approval does not guarantee future one, and permission for one person to engage in an activity with another does not guarantee it for someone else. In addition, the grantor can revoke their consent at any time.

When Is Ineffective Consent?

Consent loses its validity if someone who does not have legal permission to act on behalf of the owner offers it. It is also ineffective when the approval is from a minor or someone incapable of making a reasonable property disposition due to a mental illness, defect, or intoxication.

Furthermore, consent is inadequate if it comes from someone whose old age renders them less competent to make rational and informed decisions concerning the reasonable disposition of property.

Criminal Penalties For Theft

The property value involved in the offense significantly influences the type of theft allegation in Texas. You will probably face a Class A misdemeanor if the stolen item’s value is between $750 and $2,500. This charge carries potential penalties, including

  • Up to one year in jail.
  • A fine of up to $4,000.
  • Other personal and professional limitations on your future. 

However, you will face a charge of a felony when the value of the stolen item reaches $2,500, which carries longer prison sentences, higher fines, and more severe consequences.

Civil Penalties For Theft

People guilty of theft in Texas face criminal penalties and civil culpability to victims under the Texas Theft Liability Act. In addition, theft victims may get financial compensation, such as a civil penalty not exceeding $1,000. 

Suppose the accused does not return the stolen goods in sellable condition. In that case, victims may additionally ask for compensation for actual losses related to the crime, such as the retail value of the things taken.

Under the Texas Theft Liability Act, parents or legal guardians of kids who commit theft may also face civil accountability. In addition, these parents or guardians might be responsible for covering the cost of the theft’s actual damages, which could be up to $5,000. 

What Is Larceny?

Taking someone else’s property without using force against the victim is larceny. Depending on the jurisdiction and the property value taken, a felony charge may also be possible.

Many states often distinguish larceny from other theft offenses like embezzlement or robbery because no victim was hurt. However, depending on the specifics, the criminal court may classify some stealing offenses as larceny as the principal accusation when other crimes are involved.

One Or Multiple Larceny?

Typically, multiple objects stolen from the same owner only constitute one larceny. However, some states let prosecutors charge such a case as multiple larcenies. 

When deciding whether a larceny charge was a part of one or multiple offenses, courts frequently consider the timing and locations of the crimes. 

The quantity and seriousness of the larceny charges can vary depending on how many thefts there were. For instance, the number of objects taken could elevate a single occurrence of larceny, which involves many takings, to a felony.

On the other hand, the defendant may face many lesser misdemeanor counts if the various takings are combined into a single instance of larceny. The verdict could have a significant impact on the defendant’s sentencing.

Elements Of Larceny

The accused must testify to support specific elements if the prosecution were to prove a guilty verdict. Larceny requires the unlawful taking and transportation of someone else’s property, and they must not have permitted the theft. The goal is to permanently seize the victim’s item and take it away from them, which involves the illegal and unethical acquisition of the property.

Any deviation from these requirements may result in another theft offense, resulting in robbery, burglary, or minor theft that is not considered larceny in the state.

Unlawful Taking

The unlawful take of another person’s property constitutes the initial element of a crime that falls under the concept of larceny. In some areas, the perpetrator must have completely removed the item from the scene for it to qualify as larceny. 

However, this element is also applicable for immovable properties, wherein the offender seizes possession and denies the owner access to it so they can no longer use and enjoy it.

The property must be someone else’s for the crime of larceny to be applicable. Additionally, if someone denies any co-owners access to the property, anyone who co-owns it is equally guilty of the crime. 

Absent Or Ineffective Consent

One of the requirements for larceny is the absence of consent. Unless the individual holds the object after the owner demands its return, the crime does not happen if the owner gives permission.

This element is crucial for property transfers and ownership of possessions. Even if someone obtains something through deception or trickery, they may still be guilty of larceny if they take it unlawfully or deny the owner of it. However, other property and theft offenses are possible when the offender utilizes fraud, deception, or falsehoods to take goods from the person.

The Offender’s Intent

Depriving the owner of the use of the item is the primary goal of larceny. The offender may restrict the use, enjoyment, or capacity to generate income while committing the crime. However, the act is not larceny under normal circumstances if the offender intends to eventually return the object to its rightful owner again in the future. 

Therefore, the offender’s purpose is the final component that typically has to be present in the accusations and circumstances around the accused offender.

Unlawful Property Appropriation In Texas: Explained

Do You Need A Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney can significantly and favorably influence the result of your charges because theft or larceny cases are famously unpredictable. You could find it easier to handle the stress and fear—or even the charges—if you choose someone competent with a strong reputation and extensive experience.

An attorney should inquire about the offender’s motives regarding property offenses in Texas. In these situations, an experienced defense attorney should develop a solid case to persuade the court to lessen your sentence or dismiss the charges.

Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer

A knowledgeable and competent criminal defense attorney will help you establish a tenacious and successful defense against your allegations. They’ll know how to thoroughly investigate potential defenses, gather the required proof, and point out any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.

Theft and larceny offenses are frequently trickier to solve than they initially appear. For instance, when they weren’t involved in the stealing act, innocent persons might have appeared to have done so. In such circumstances, a defense attorney will have the skills and knowledge to gather the evidence and supporting claims to disprove allegations.


Any offense that fits the definition of theft or larceny could lead to severe accusations and repercussions. Therefore, it’s crucial to have skilled, experienced legal representation on your side. A competent criminal defense lawyer can refute the evidence against you and ensure you have a capable advocate looking out for your interests.

Read About: Theft Categories And Their Penalties In Texas


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