Being arrested for theft in Texas is an upsetting experience. No matter what the circumstances, you are likely to feel frightened, and powerless against law enforcement and prosecution. Although many theft offenses are filed as misdemeanors, being convicted of any theft can make it very difficult to find employment. For anyone who is not a citizen, being convicted of theft can be very damaging to a person’s immigration case. If you find yourself in this situation, the best decision you can make is to call an aggressive criminal defense attorney.
Ceja Law Firm PLLC, serving clients in Houston and the surrounding areas, is one of the highest ranked legal practices in Texas and in the country. Jose Ceja, the lead attorney, has a well-earned reputation for compassion as well as for skillful litigation.
In order to fight theft charges, it is important to understand some of the basics of Texas law regarding theft. Theft is legally defined, to paraphrase the precise wording in the statute, as unlawfully appropriating property with intent to deprive the owner of that property. Translating from legalese, this means that theft has been committed when you take something that doesn’t belong to you without the owner’s consent or any other legal justification.
It should also be noted that theft includes “theft of services” as well as theft of property and that shoplifting and selling or buying property you know to be stolen are also considered theft in Texas.
It is important to remember that to prove theft charges it must be established that, at the time of the offense, the individual committing the crime has no intention of giving the property back.
Why You Need Our Theft Defense Attorney
At Ceja Law, we understand your predicament. Being charged with theft is embarrassing as well as anxiety-producing. Jose Ceja is a defense attorney who has in-depth familiarity with the law regarding theft. You can trust him to provide a theft defense while also protecting your civil rights and your liberty. With him at your side you can have confidence that your case will have the best chance of a positive outcome, whether it is a dismissal of charges, a verdict of not guilty, or a reduction of charges. He will listen to your story carefully, examine all police reports, interview any witnesses, and create the strategy that will win.
How Theft Offenses Are Categorized and How They Are Punished
Texas classifies theft offenses by the value of the stolen property or services and their punishment as follows:
- Class C misdemeanor — under $100, fine of up to $500, no jail time
- Class B misdemeanor — between $100 and $750, jail term of not more than 180 days and/or fine of no more than $2,000
- Class A misdemeanor — between $750 and $2500, jail term of not more than 1 year and/or fine of no more than $4,000.
- State jail felony — between $2500 and $30,000, state jail term of not more than 2 years and/or fine of no more than $10,000
- Third-degree felony — between $30,000 and $150,000, incarceration from 2 to 10 years and fine of no more than $10,000
- Second-degree felony — between $150,000 and $300,000, incarceration from 2 to 20 years and fine of no more than $10,000
- First-degree felony — $300,000 or more imprisonment from 5 to 99 years and a fine of no more than $10,000
Sentences for felony theft will vary according to a number of particulars, such as whether the defendant has a criminal history, whether or not the defendant is a government employee or Medicare provider, and whether deception of the victim was an element of the crime. Since you can be sentenced to as much as 99 years in prison for theft in Texas, clearly any theft charges are serious. This is why it is crucial to have a competent, knowledgeable Texas criminal defense attorney protecting your rights.
Other Theft-Related Offenses In Texas
There are several other offenses in Texas that are similar to theft but often involve other factors as well. The following offenses are also variations of the offense of theft:
- Robbery: Taking something from another person via threats, intimidation, or force. This may or may not involve the actual taking of property.
- Burglary: Entering a structure with the intent to commit a crime. This offense often involves theft but does not have to.
- Writing a bad check
- Changing a price tag so that you will pay less for an item
- Substituting a cheap imitation for something of value
- Having a meal in a restaurant and walking out without paying, sneaking into a movie
- Signing an agreement to pay for something and then (without good cause) failing to do so
Civil Penalties for Theft in Texas
You should be aware that, if convicted of theft, In addition to criminal penalties, you may be civilly liable to the victim. According to the Texas Theft Liability Act, the theft victim may recover monetary damages that include the retail value of the item (if not returned in good condition) and a civil penalty of no more than $1,000. It is also worth noting that the parent or legal guardian of a minor who commits theft may also be civilly liable under the same act. In such cases, however, the recovery amount is limited to the actual value of the item stolen with a cap of $5,000.
Common Theft Defense
Ceja Law has a fine track record of successfully defending clients charged with misdemeanor or felony theft. Our defense tactics include:
- Alibi or mistaken identity:
- Lack of intent/honest mistake: where a person engaged in the conduct constituting the alleged theft by accident and did not have the necessary legal intent.
- Mistake of fact: you mistakenly believed the stolen property belonged to you.
- Rightful ownership: The items you were accused of stealing actually belong to you and you can prove it.
- Entrapment: Although this defense is rarely used in theft cases, it may be available if someone coaxed you to commit the crime.
- Duress: Also rarely used in theft cases, the defense of duress could be available to you if someone forced you to steal by threatening you or your family with imminent injury.
How Do I Keep a Theft Conviction Off My Record?
The goal for any theft-related offense should be a dismissal. If your case is dismissed, you will normally be eligible to have your records expunged, which permanently erases any record of the theft offense. In Texas, only the prosecutor can generally dismiss your case. If your case is not dismissed, you will have several options.
One is to work out a plea for regular probation of deferred adjudication. The problem with regular probation is that it leaves a permanent conviction on your record that cannot be expunged or sealed. Successfully completing a deferred adjudication probation might allow you to be able to get your records sealed, but that is still not as good as getting your case dismissed as certain agencies would still be able to see the offense, even if your records are sealed.
In some cases, prosecutors are willing to offer what is known as a pre-trial diversion for theft cases. This is basically a contract with the District Attorney’s Office where they agree to dismiss your case if you complete certain things, like community service or a theft related class. This option is only available in some counties, for some types of cases and for defendants with minimal criminal history.
The last option is a trial. Winning a trial is always a great thing and would allow you to get an expunction immediately if you win. However, losing a trial will result in a permanent conviction on your record. Jose Ceja is an experienced trial attorney and can advise you on the best strategy to defend your case.
Contact Our Houston Theft Defense Attorney
If you have been arrested for theft in Texas, there is no time to waste. Check out our credentials and give us a call or contact us through our website. We are here to help.