Defenses to Auto Theft in Texas

By Jose Ceja
Managing Attorney

Auto theft is a very serious crime that is commonly charged as a felony. If you have been charged with the crime of auto theft in the state of Texas, it is important that you understand exactly what you are dealing with.

Proving Auto Theft in Texas

Auto theft in Texas, often referred to as Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle, is a state felony. It is rather easy to prove. An individual has committed unauthorized use of a vehicle in Texas if he or she:

  1. Intentionally or knowingly operates another’s vehicle; and
  2. Does so without the effective consent of its rightful owner.

The Consequences of a Conviction

If convicted, it is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and six months to two years in the state jail. Some prosecutors will choose to charge auto theft under the general theft statute, though generally only when the automobile in question has a value greater than $30,000 and therefore chargeable as a third-degree felony, which carries a fine of up to $10,000 or anywhere from two to 10 years in the Texas Department of Corrections.

Unauthorized use of a vehicle differs from general theft in Texas in that general theft also requires proof of the intent to deprive the owner of the property. This is a big reason as to why prosecutors generally tend to charge auto theft as unauthorized use of a motor vehicle rather than theft; they do not need to prove intent.

Defenses For Auto Theft

There are however, two main defenses to auto theft. They are:

In a case where an individual is charged with use of a motor vehicle or theft, the defendant may argue that he or she thought that the owner gave him or her the consent to use the vehicle.

Lack of Intent
In a case where an individual is charged as a general theft, the defendant may argue that he or she did not have the requisite intent to deprive the owner of the his or her vehicle.

As mentioned, a conviction for either unauthorized use of a vehicle or general theft can have a seriously impact. You may face a fine, jail or prison time, or even both as well as community supervision and a criminal record. Also, since the crime of theft is one of moral wrongdoing, it will become much more difficult to obtain employment with such a criminal conviction on your record.

Ceja Law Firm PLLC Helps Those in TX Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

Such a conviction can affect everything from where you live to where you work, to whether you can even find work. That is why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney.

At Ceja Law Firm PLLC, we understand the severity of the charge and the enormity of what is at stake. We will fight to minimize or even eliminate a conviction. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 713.568.5380 today!

About the Author
Jose Ceja is the managing attorney of Ceja Law Firm. He has practiced law since 2007 and has devoted his career to the practice of criminal law. Mr. Ceja began his legal career as a felony drug prosecutor, where he prosecuted drug, gang, and violent offenses. Mr. Ceja has first or second chaired almost 100 trials, including murders, drug cases, DWIs, and assaults. In his career as a defense attorney, he has regularly obtained dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and grand jury “no bills” in a wide variety of cases.