What To Do if You are Facing Misdemeanor Theft Charges in Texas

In Texas, a misdemeanor charge of theft covers a wide variety of actions, including shoplifting, buying stolen property, writing bad checks, larceny, embezzlement, theft of services, and other actions that result from the taking and keeping of property belonging to another.  Under the Texas Penal Code, theft is defined as taking the property of another person without consent, either by stealing it or taking it by deception.  In order to prove theft, a prosecutor must show:

  • The individual being charged acted with criminal intent.  Basically, this means that the person knew the property belonged to another, he did not have the right to take possession of it, but took the property anyway; and
  • The individual accused of theft had actual possession of the stolen property.

Although the burden of proof to demonstrate these facts beyond a reasonable doubt lies with the prosecutor, he can do this by witness testimony, photographic or video evidence, or statements against interest made by the person being accused of the theft.

There are four common charges of theft that a person is most likely to face in Texas:

  • General Theft – This involves the taking of somebody else’s property without permission.  This can include picking up a waitress’ tip off of another patron’s table, stealing the bike of the child up the street, or taking someone’s laptop at the library.
  • Writing a Bad Check – This is one that may not be as obvious to some.  While this does apply to a check that is written on a closed or invalid account, it also includes writing a check on your personal account when you do not have sufficient funds to cover the check.  If you do not correct the situation of writing a check with insufficient funds in your account by tendering the owed amount to the person who received the bad check within ten days, you may be charged with theft.
  • Shoplifting – This is a broad category of theft involving removing property from a store without tendering the full value of the property.  A person can be charged with shoplifting if he takes an item and attempts to leave the premises with the item without paying for it at all.  However, shoplifting charges also will apply if you switch tags between a more and less expensive piece of merchandise in order to deprive the merchant the true value of the property.
  • Accepting Stolen Property – Taking possession of property when you know that the person offering the item is not the legal owner of the property will support a charge of theft, even if you do not pay for the stolen item.

There is a sliding scale of charges if you are accused of theft.  The more valuable the item or property, the more serious the charge will be.  This ranges from a Class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony.  The theft of certain items will automatically qualify for a felony charge, regardless of the value of the item being stolen – this includes firearms, copper, or other specially-protected property.  Penalties for theft include fines and possible jail time.  Texas has an added protection for the victims of theft victims, titled the Texas Theft Liability Act.  This permits the victims to bring a civil action to recover damages.  This means that a person accused of theft can face criminal and civil legal action.  An experienced criminal attorney can help get criminal charges reduced or dismissed and negotiate a settlement in a civil action, easing the burden of the accused tremendously.

For additional information, or if you are accused of theft, it is important to work with an experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyer to help you minimize the impact that a conviction will have on your personal and professional life.  For more than thirty years, our office has successfully defended thousands of individuals dealing with all types of criminal related offenses.   If you would like to speak to Mr. Pettit about your case, contact our firm today by calling 214-521-4567.  We accept most major credit cards and provide bilingual services in Spanish.

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