Theft is defined under the Texas Penal Code as taking someone else's property without consent, either by deception or by physically stealing it.
The charge of theft in Texas can range from shoplifting to writing hot checks to buying a stolen car. As you can see it is a very broad charge with varying levels of punishment that range from a fine to prison time depending on the seriousness of the crime.
To charge a person with theft the police have to show that he/she acted with criminal intent, or that the person knew the property belonged to someone else and knew he/she didn't have their permission to take the property and that he/she actually have or had possession of the property--a person does not have to keep the property, but hold it long enough to deprive the owner of the property's value.
The range of punishment for theft in Texas has a direct bearing to the value amount of the property stolen--in short, the more the property stolen is worth, then the harsher the punishment will be. Also, if a person steals more than one item of property at once, those items will be added together for the charge and for punishment purposes. For example, if Mr. X shoplifts 3 video games each valued at $40 a piece and gets caught leaving the store without paying for them, he will be charged with theft of $120 for the 3 video games added together.
Penalties for Theft in Texas
Amount Classification Penalties
Less than $50, or less than $20 if by check Class C misdemeanor A fine of not more than $500
$50 or more but less than $500, or $20 or more but less than $500 if by check Class B misdemeanor Not more than 180 days in a county jail and/or a fine of not more than $2,000
$500 or more but less than $1,500 Class A misdemeanor Not more than 1 year in a county jail and/or a fine of not more than $4,000
more but less than $20,000 State jail felony 180 days to 2 years in a state jail and/or a fine of not more than $10,000
$20,000 or more but less than $100,000 Third-degree felony 2 to 10 years in a state prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000
$100,000 or more but less than $200,000 Second-degree felony 2 to 20 years in a state prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000
$200,000 or more
First-degree felony 5 to 99 years in a state prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000
These Texas theft penalties could be enhanced and increased one level (for example Class C and Class B misdemeanors become a Class B or Class A respectively, etc.) if a person has a prior criminal history of theft. Another example is a Class A misdemeanor becomes a state jail felony if you have two previous theft convictions.
Any crime is serious, but theft in Texas is extremely serious because of the long-term consequences of the conviction or guilty plea. Theft in Texas is what is called a crime of moral turpitude. A crime of moral turpitude refers to a crime that encompasses a base or vile act. The following offenses, whether charged as felonies or misdemeanors, are of the type that have typically been found to be crimes of moral turpitude:
crimes which involve either an intent to defraud or an intent to steal as an element;
crimes which involve an element of intentional or reckless infliction of harm to persons or property;
sex crimes, in which "lewd" intent is an element.
As a result, if you plead guilty or are convicted of a theft charge, it will go down on your permanent record and may stay on it forever. This type of crime on a person's record could hinder their ability to find employment, get into a school, or even worse consequences. Due to the seriousness of a theft charge and the possible long-term implications of a conviction of same, it is wise for a person accused of such a crime to consult a lawyer to review their options prior to making any plea agreement with the state.