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. 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 $50 (petty theft), fine of up to $500, no jail time
- Class B misdemeanor — between $50 and $500, or theft is of a driver’s license or ID card, jail term of not more than 180 days and/or fine of no more than $2,000
- Class A misdemeanor — between $500 and $1500, fine of up to $4,000, and possibly a jail sentence
of up to a year, or both.
- State jail felony — between $1500 and $20,000 (or theft of a firearm or certain livestock), jail sentence of up to a year and/or fine of not more than $4,000
- Third-degree felony — between $20,000 and $100,000, incarceration from 2 to 10 years and fine of no more than $10,000
- Second-degree felony — between $100,000 and $200,000, incarceration from 2 to 20 years and fine of no more than $10,000
- First-degree felony — $200,000 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 Offenses Considered Theft in Texas
You needn’t make off with someone’s property per se to be charged with theft in Texas. The following offenses are also considered theft:
- 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
- Mistake of fact — the property believed to be stolen was actually your own
- Age — being a minor, though not always a complete defense, may lessen the penalty
- Duress — the fact that someone forced you, by coercion or threat, to commit the crime
- Genuine misunderstanding of ownership — you believed what you took was yours
- You returned or can prove your intention to return, the property in question
- Your intention was only to borrow the property you took and you forgot to return it
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.