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Secrets of the Texas Criminal Justice System and Your Rights
Theft is inherently a crime of dishonesty, even a misdemeanor conviction can hurt your ability to find employment or follow a new career path. Fortunately, there are various defenses that you may be able to utilize if accused of theft. An El Paso theft lawyer may be able to help you discover any applicable defenses in your case and raise them on your behalf. A practiced criminal defense attorney could be instrumental in defending you against any allegations of wrongdoing. Everyone makes mistakes, and a simple misstep in judgment need not ruin your future.
The Legal Definition of Theft
Theft occurs according to Tex. Pen. Code § 31.03 when a person exercises unlawful control over property that does not belong to them, without the consent of the property owner. Their intent must be to deprive the real owner of the use or benefit of the property. Theft also may occur when someone knowingly takes possession of stolen property.
Since people in specific industries are more likely to encounter stolen property, they must follow specific procedures to avoid violating the law. For example, employees at used car lots must carefully document titles and sales receipts for vehicles to avoid taking possession of stolen cars. If these employees fail to follow these rules, then the law presumes that they are committing theft.
Factors That May Affect Theft Charges
The value of the property or services that are the target of the theft determines the level of the charge. Typically, if the property is worth less than $2,500, the charge is a misdemeanor. The lower the value of the property, the lesser the charge, and vice versa. If the property is worth $2,500 or more, however, the charge becomes a felony.
There are other circumstances, however, that can impact the level of charge for theft. If, for example, the item stolen is a driver’s license, the charge is automatically a Class B misdemeanor. If the item is a firearm or a grave marker, then the charge is a state jail felony, no matter the value of the article.
The person involved in a theft offense also can alter the level of the charge. For instance, the offense increases to a higher level if any of the following circumstances exist:
- The individual took property that came into their possession due to their statuses as public servants
- The owner of the stolen property was an elderly individual or a non-profit organization
- The person activated a fire alarm during the commission of the offense
These are a few of the situations that may result in enhanced theft charges. Anyone accused of theft should strongly consider seeking the advice of a dedicated El Paso theft lawyer.
Theft Charges an Individual May Face
Texas law further classifies misdemeanor and felony theft offenses into different levels based on the value of the stolen goods or services. Misdemeanor theft involves three different levels:
- Class C misdemeanor if the cost is less than $100
- Class B misdemeanor if the cost is $100 or more, but less than $750
- Class A misdemeanor if the cost if $750 or more, but less than $2,500
Felony theft offenses also are divided into four classes. The least serious felony theft charges are state jail felony charges, which may occur when the value of the property is less than $30,000. The most severe misdemeanor theft charges are first-degree felony charges, which may occur when the value of the property is $300,000 or more. Theft penalties are severe, therefore, it may be critical to obtain the services of an accomplished defense lawyer.
Seek Legal Services from an El Paso Theft Attorney
The outcome of theft charges can have a severe effect on your life, so you always should take them seriously. Getting the help of an El Paso theft lawyer at the outset of your case gives you a better chance of a positive outcome.
You have rights when accused of any crime, and the law presumes you innocent until the state has evidence sufficient to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Take steps that may be necessary to protect your rights and build a strong defense in your case. Call today to get started.