Theft

Theft is one of the most common criminal offenses in the state of Texas. Despite this, it is still a severe crime under Texas law. A person convicted of theft may face legal repercussions such as fines, jail or prison time, restitution and a criminal record.

Allegations for theft are incredibly serious because it is considered a crime of dishonesty. If it shows up in a background check you may be unable to apply for certain jobs or housing. If you or someone you know has been charged with theft or larceny, it is in your best interest to obtain trusted legal representation.

Theft Attorney in Harris County, Texas

In some cases, theft allegations arise from a simple misunderstanding. No matter the circumstances, it is still your right to obtain a strong defense. Brian Benken has years of experience with theft, petit theft, grand theft and other larceny cases in the Harris County area.

The Benken Law Firm is passionate about defending his client’s rights. Attorney Brian Benken wants to use his extensive knowledge and resources to help you obtain the best possible result for your case. Have peace of mind that you have an aggressive and skillful attorney on your side. Call Brian Benken at (713) 223 - 4051 for a free consultation today.

Brian Benken at The Benken Law Firm defends those with theft allegations at both the Harris County Criminal Court and Harris County District Courts and every nearby area including Houston, Sharpstown, Magnolia Park, River Oaks, Houston Heights and communities in surrounding counties.

Overview for Theft or Larceny in Texas


Elements of Theft Charges in Houston, Texas

The term “theft” covers a wide variety of crimes. Theft offenses are outlined in Texas Penal Code § 31.03. Individuals are considered guilty of theft if he or she unlawfully takes another person’s property with the intent to deprive that person of their property. Texas law considers the taking of another person’s is unlawful if:

  • The alleged offender did not have the owner’s consent to take the property;
  • The alleged offender took property they knew was stolen; or
  • The stolen property was taken from law enforcement.

It is not a valid defense to the prosecution for a theft charge in Texas that:

  • The alleged offender was given a opportunity to commit the offense by law enforcement;
  • The offense occurred due to law enforcement’s techniques involving deception, such as using undercover officers; or
  • The alleged offender was solicited to commit the offense by law enforcement and the solicitation would encourage a person already groomed to commit the offense to actually commit the offense.

Theft is an umbrella term for a variety of offenses. Most think of goods or money being stolen when they think of the word theft. While this is true, theft can also be the absence of services or writing bad checks.

The following are some theft offenses a person may be charged with in Texas:

  • Swindling
  • Swindling by worthless check
  • Embezzlement
  • Extortion
  • Shoplifting
  • Theft of service
  • Theft of trade secrets
  • Theft by false pretext
  • Conversion by a bailee
  • Acquisition of property by threat
  • Receiving or concealing embezzled property
  • Receiving or concealing stolen property

Texas Penalties for Theft Offenses in Houston

A theft offense is serious under Texas law. Those convicted of theft can face either a misdemeanor or felony charges. Each charge carries fines, possible jail or prison time, and can include possible restitution. Some legal consequences a person may face if he or she is charged with theft include:

  • Class C Misdemeanor – Punishable with a fine up to $500.
  • Class B Misdemeanor – Punishable by up to 180 days in Harris County jail, and a fine of up to $2,000.
  • Class A Misdemeanor – Punishable by up to 12 months in Harris County jail, and a fine of up to $4,000.
  • State Jail Felony – Punishable with a minimum of 180 days and a maximum of 24 months in jail, and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Third-Degree Felony – Punishable with a minimum of 2 years and a maximum of 10 years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Second-Degree Felony – Punishable with a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 20 years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • First-Degree Felony – Punishable with a minimum of 5 years and a maximum of 99 or life imprisonment, and a fine of up to $10,000.

Legal Consequences for Theft in Houston, Texas

Theft offenses are determined by the value of whatever was stolen. This includes non-tangible goods such as services. Value is determined by the fair marker value of the property stolen, or the replacement costs of the property stolen. If neither can be determined then it will be deemed more than $750 but less than $2,500.

The following are the possible legal penalties a person may face if he or she is convicted of a theft charge.

  • A theft is classified as a Class C Misdemeanor when:
    • The value of the property stolen is less than $100.
  • A theft is classified as a Class B Misdemeanor when:
    • The value of the property stolen is $100 or more but less than $750;
    • The property stolen is a driver’s license, personal identification certificate, or commercial driver’s license issued by any state; or
    • The value of the property stolen is less than $100 and the defendant has a criminal history of theft.
  • A theft is classified as a Class A Misdemeanor when:
    • The value of the property stolen is $750 or more but less than $2,500.
  • A theft is classified as a State Jail Felony when:
    • The value of the property stolen is $2,500 or more but less than $30,000;
    • The property stolen is less than $2,5000 and the alleged offender has two or more previous convictions of any grade of theft;
    • The property is a firearm;
    • Regardless of value, the property is stolen from the person of another or from a human corpse or grave, including property that is a military grave marker;
    • The property is less than 10 head of sheep, swine, or goats or any part thereof under the value of $30,000;
    • The property is an official ballot or official carrier envelope for an election;
    • The property stolen is bronze, aluminum, or copper wire that values at less than $20,000;
    • The property is tubing, rods, or water gate stems and value is less than $20,000.
  • A theft is classified as a Third-Degree Felony when:
    • The value of the property stolen is $30,000 or more but less than $150,000;
    • Cattle, horses, or exotic livestock or exotic fowl was stolen during a single transaction and having a total value of less than $150,000;
    • 10 or more head of sheep, swine, or goats stolen during a single transaction and having an aggregate value of less than $150,000;
    • Controlled substances, having a value of less than $150,000 if stolen from a commercial building or vehicle in which prescription drugs are stored.
  • A theft is classified as a Second-Degree Felony when:
    • The value of the property is $150,000 or more but less than $300,000;
    • The value of the property stolen is less than $300,00 and the property stolen is an automated teller machine (ATM).
  • A theft is classified as a First-Degree Felony when:
    • The value of the property stolen is $300,000 or more.

Aggravated Factors for Theft Offenses in Houston, Texas

Certain circumstances can lead to enhanced penalties. If specific aggravating factors are done during the commission of the offense the legal consequences will be elevated to the next higher category of offense. For instance, if you trigger an alarm during a Class C misdemeanor theft offense your charge will be elevated to a Class B misdemeanor.

The aggravating factors that can enhance penalties of a theft offense include:

  • Activating a fire exit alarm during the commission of the offense;
  • Deactivated or prevented a fire exit alarm or retail theft detector;
  • Used a shield or deactivation instrument to prevent or attempt to prevent detection of theft by the retail theft detector;
  • The alleged offender was a Medicare provider in a contractual relationship with the federal government during the offense, and the property stolen was through this contractual relationship;
  • The owner of the property was an elderly individual;
  • The owner of the property was a nonprofit organization;
  • The alleged offender was in a contractual relationship with the government and the property stolen was by virtue of that contractual relationship; or
  • The actor was a public servant during the offense and the property stolen was by virtue of the alleged offender’s status as a servant.

Additional Resources

Texas Theft Laws – Visit the official website for Texas state laws or the Texas Penal Code. Find more information surrounding theft, petit theft, grand theft, and other types of larceny crimes in Texas. Learn the charge elements, penalties, and non-admissible defenses in Texas criminal courts.

National Association for Shoplifting Prevention | NASP – Visit the official website for NASP, which provides specialized services and support to criminal justice agencies, retailers, mental health professionals, and family members to those who struggle with shoplifting compulsions.


Houston Lawyer for Theft and Larceny in Texas

If you or someone you know has been charged with any grade of theft, it is important that you seek the counsel of a trusted attorney. A skilled attorney can file motions, suppress evidence, and uncover all your legal options.

The attorneys at The Benken Law Firm are passionate about criminal defense. We are well versed in all of Texas theft and larceny laws. With our resources and knowledge, we can formulate a strong defense for you. Call us today for answers and solutions to your legal issues.

The Benken Law Firm defends those with theft allegations throughout all communities in Harris County and surrounding counties in Texas.

Call us now at (713) 223 - 4051 to schedule a free consultation.


This article was last updated on October 4, 2018.

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