Theft crimes are some of the most common offenses in Texas. Various forms of theft can affect individuals and businesses adversely, and the state will investigate and prosecute these property offenses.
Shoplifting or retail fraud involves customers intentionally taking items out of the store without paying for them. Burglary involves someone illegally accessing a home or business with the intention to steal. Robbery involves someone threatening or hurting another person to steal from them directly.
All of these forms of theft can lead to arrest and serious criminal charges for the person accused of taking property from others. How do Texas police officers and prosecutors decide how to punish a theft offense?
How Texas penalizes theft offenses
The value of the items involved and the circumstances around the alleged theft will strongly influence the charges and penalties someone faces. Basic theft, like shoplifting from a store, is often a misdemeanor. If the items involved are worth less than $2,500 and are not subject to enhanced penalties, the person accused risks fines and imprisonment of, at most, a year.
However, when the items involved are worth more than $2,500, the offense becomes a felony. The items stolen can impact the charges as well. Regardless of the value of the items, theft involving a firearm, an election ballot, controlled substances, an ATM, precious metal or livestock may be a felony. So can theft directly from a person or a corpse. Even setting off a fire alarm or tampering with one so it won’t go off can increase the possible penalties for a theft offense.
Those accused of theft have defense options
Even if there seems to be evidence against you, it may be possible to defend against theft charges in many situations. Perhaps the victim falsely identified you.
Maybe loss-prevention professionals at the store made an incorrect assumption based on your appearance or the way you put your items in your shopping cart. You may have entered someone’s house and taken something because a co-worker had said they left their home unlocked so that you could borrow something from them.
Exploring the evidence against you and learning about state law can help you better respond to theft charges in Texas.