A momentary lapse in judgment or a simple misunderstanding can sometimes lead to accusations of theft. Whatever the case may be, the penalties for a theft conviction can be harsh, so you should take the matter seriously.
Hiring an Allen theft lawyer may be crucial to effectively and successfully fighting back against the charges you face. A criminal defense lawyer may be able to help you determine the best defense strategy for your situation and proactively work toward a positive outcome in your case.
Individuals should take steps to protect their rights from the moment they become aware that they are the target of a theft investigation. Otherwise, they may risk waiving their rights or making mistakes in their cases that even a skilled theft lawyer in Allen may not be able to remedy later.
Law enforcement officers routinely question individuals about possible criminal activity or request permission to search their homes or vehicles. Even if individuals have nothing to hide, they still should not consent to searches or questioning by law enforcement until they have consulted with a lawyer.
Legally Defining Theft
Generally, theft occurs when individuals take possession of property belonging to others without the consent of the owners. Under Texas Penal Code §31.03, theft encompasses a wide variety of offenses, including but not limited to shoplifting, embezzlement, and receiving stolen property.
Theft also occurs when individuals knowingly take possession of stolen property or property that is in the custody of a law enforcement agency and represented as stolen. This code section further defines specific responsibilities and duties for individuals employed in industries that regularly encounter stolen property, such as pawn shops and junkyards. If employees fail to observe these duties, the law creates a presumption that the property in question is stolen.
Misdemeanor and Felony Charges
With a few exceptions, theft is a misdemeanor offense if the goods stolen are worth less than $2,500, and a felony offense if worth more than $2,500. There are individual levels of both misdemeanor and felony offenses, generally based on the value of the stolen goods. An Allen theft attorney could further clarify the statutory framework for theft offenses under Texas law.
Other factors that can affect the level of a theft offense include the type of property involved and the situation that led to the theft. For instance, theft of a firearm is automatically a state jail felony regardless of the value of the gun. Similarly, the level of the theft offense increases if the property owner is an elderly individual or a non-profit organization.
Potential Defenses to Theft
Fortunately, there are a variety of defenses that may apply in theft cases. Although all cases are different, some defenses have specific statutory relevance, including:
- Lack of intent to deprive the owner of the property
- Mistaken belief of ownership or consent by the owner
- Lack of knowledge that property was stolen
Prosecutors must prove all elements of the theft charges against individuals to secure a conviction. For example, theft requires an element of intent to be present. If a person accused of stealing had no intention to deprive the owner of the use of the stolen property, then they may not be guilty of the criminal act of theft.
Start Working with an Allen Theft Attorney Today
Theft offenses can have serious consequences that can result in years of incarceration and high fines, as well as damage your future job and career prospects. Fortunately, an Allen theft lawyer may be able to help you combat your theft charges and work toward a positive resolution of your case. Call today to learn more about your legal options.