What is Felony Theft in Texas?
Regardless of the stolen property or services’ value, theft is one of the most common crimes in Texan criminal courts. On the other hand, it is precisely this component – property or services’ value – that theft offenses are classified according to. So what is recognized as a felony theft in Texas?
Under Texas Penal Code, section §31.03, theft happens when one “[…] commits an offense if he unlawfully appropriates property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property”. Put simply, this means that an individual has committed a theft when they take a personal property item (a vehicle, jewelry, money), real property (a house or land), services (utilities, labor) without the rightful owner’s permission, or the intention of returning the property.
Theft can take the form of embezzlement, swindling, extortion, robbery, shoplifting, receiving stolen property, grand theft, and grand theft auto. Texas statute additionally recognizes theft-related crimes such as cargo theft, theft by check, trade or theft of secrets, and organized retail theft.
Theft offenses are sometimes classified as misdemeanors and sometimes as felonies. This article clarifies what makes a felony theft, the related charges and penalties, and what happens to first-time felony theft offenders. Finally, we describe different ways to dismiss felony theft charges in Texas.
Felony Theft Charges & Penalties
In addition to the property’s value and type, Texas law differentiates theft charges based on other factors such as the defendant’s capacity and prior offenses. Theft felony penalties can be both misdemeanors and felonies of various degrees, and they can take the form of restitution payments, fines, and incarceration.
Before we dive deeper into various levels of Texas theft penalties and charges, it is important to remember that if a defendant has a prior conviction for theft, is a government or public servant, or Medicare provider, their charges will be increased for one level towards more severe. Similarly, more than one prior theft conviction will land a person two levels higher.
The following are Texas theft charges and penalties:
Class A Misdemeanor Theft
If the value of the stolen goods or services ranges between $750 and $2,500, theft is a class A misdemeanor. The penalty includes a fine of up to $4,000, imprisonment for up to one year, or both.
Class B Misdemeanor Theft
Theft is considered to be a class B misdemeanor if:
- the value of the misappropriated goods or services is between $100 and $750;
- the value is below $100, but is part of the defendant’s second theft offense, or
- the stolen property is a document such as an ID card or driver’s license.
The penalty for a class B misdemeanor includes a fine of up to $2,000, confinement for up to 6 months, or both.
Class C Misdemeanor Theft
If the value of the stolen service or property is less than $100, theft is a class C misdemeanor. It is charged with a fine of up to $500.
First-Degree Felony Theft
In case that the value of the stolen property or services is a hefty fine of $300,000 or more, theft is a felony of the first degree. The penalty for a first-degree felony is a fine of up to $10,000, incarceration from five to 99 years, or both.
Second-Degree Felony Theft
If the value of the stolen property or services is estimated between $150,000 and $300,000; or if the stolen property is an ATM or its contents of up to $300,000, theft is considered to be a second-degree felony. Common punishments include a fine of up to $10,000, incarceration from two to 20 years, or both.
Third-Degree Felony Theft
Theft is considered to be a third-degree felony when:
- the estimated worth of the stolen property or services is between $30,000 and $150,000;
- the stolen good is a specific type of livestock valued at less than $150,000;
- the property is a controlled substance whose value is below $150,000 that has been misappropriated from a pharmacy or another place where such substances are commonly stored.
The penalty is a fine of no more than $10,000, imprisonment for between two to ten years, or a combination of both.
Enhanced Theft Penalties
In addition to elements such as a prior conviction for theft, being a government or public servant, or Medicare provider, other circumstances can also increase the penalty to the next offense level. This happens when a stolen good belongs to a person older than 65 or to a nonprofit organization, or in case the offender has triggered the fire alarm to go off or has prevented it from going off while committing the offense.
State jail felony results in charges between $1,500 and $20,000.
First-time Offense Felony Theft
Depending on the larceny circumstances, first-time offenders may be charged with a misdemeanor instead of a felony. While this is not the case for all first-time offenders, it is more likely that a person will not end up imprisoned after committing a theft than when they have previous theft felony charges.
Dismissing Felony Theft Charges
According to Texas Penal Code, felony theft charges can be dismissed if they happen under the following circumstances:
- If the owner has the means to prove that the item is not stolen (legal jargon refers to this as a ‘Mistake of Fact’);
- If the offender’s young age can either serve as a pardon or reduce the punishment associated with the robbery. The exception to this would be adolescents (who face charges that are lesser than those for adults).
- If a person has misappropriated something under duress, or a threat or use of physical force, the charges against them may be dismissed, and the blame may be placed on the person who created the circumstances.
Contact GHC Law Firm for Free Consultations
If you or your loved ones are facing felony theft charges in Texas, you will need the guidance of a seasoned criminal defense attorney who will build a sound defense. If you have any concerns or questions, do not hesitate to contact us for free consultations at (512) 614-4412 today. GHC Law Firm will ensure that you get the best possible outcome.