Theft can be a misdemeanor or a felony charge, but even a misdemeanor conviction can have serious consequences. Not only can you face fines, jail time, and other penalties, but you could also have a permanent theft conviction that will show up on background checks, which may hinder job opportunities. If you are in this situation, an Austin theft lawyer could provide you with the representation you need.
When faced with theft accusations, you may be confused about where to turn for advice. While the stress can be overwhelming, a knowledgeable defense lawyer can provide the guidance you need.
Theft Offenses in Austin
According to Tex. Pen. Code § 31.03, theft occurs when individuals unlawfully take control of or appropriate property that belongs to another. To commit this offense, the individual must have the intent to deprive the property owner of its use or possession without their consent. Theft also occurs when someone illegally takes property knowing that another stole it or takes property from the custody of a law enforcement agency with the belief that it is stolen property.
Furthermore, the law presumes that a person has knowledge that they are dealing in stolen property in certain situations. For instance, those who own or work in pawn shops and junkyards must follow specific procedures to document the buying and selling of property. When they fail to do so, theft may be presumed. Anyone who was accused of theft may wish to immediately consult a theft lawyer in Austin for advice.
Different Charges a Person May Face
Most distinctions in theft charges occur as a result of the value of the goods or services allegedly involved. Typically, if the goods or services are worth less than $2,500, the charge is a misdemeanor. If the products or services are worth more than $2,500, the charge is a felony.
There are, however, exceptions to these rules. For instance, theft of any firearm or any item from a grave is a state jail felony, no matter its value. Other situations also can cause an increase in the level of the theft offense. In some cases, this results in an offense being charged as a felony rather than a misdemeanor. For example, if the value of the stolen property is less than $2,500 and the individual has two previous theft convictions of any level, the charge automatically becomes a state jail felony.
Factors that Can Raise the Level of Charge
Misdemeanor and felony theft offenses are further subdivided into levels based on the value of the stolen goods or services. These classifications can result in a wide range of potential penalties, from a small fine to decades in prison and thousands in fines.
An offense also may increase from one misdemeanor level to the next, or from one felony level to the next, based on certain factors that act as enhancements. For instance, the following elements can enhance theft charges to the next highest level of charges:
- The accused is a public servant who committed theft via their official position
- The property owner was an elderly individual or non-profit organization
- The individual caused a fire exit alarm to sound or deactivated a fire exit alarm or retail theft detector
All of these factors can result in increased charges and penalties in addition to a permanent criminal record of a theft offense. Individuals charged with any level of offense should strongly consider working with an Austin theft attorney.
Contact an Austin Theft Attorney for Legal Advice
The most frightening aspect of criminal charges can be thinking about the impact that a conviction could have on your future personal and professional life. An Austin theft lawyer may have the legal skills and knowledge that you need when facing serious criminal charges.
Getting legal representation from the beginning of your case may be critical to a more desirable and successful resolution of your case. Call today to start protecting your rights.