The term “theft” applies to any incident in which one party deprives another party of their property. Theft can pertain to stealing cash, valuables, goods, materials, or even the time when employees misreport their work hours. Theft offenses occur in many situations, and the Texas Penal Code assigns penalties for these offenses based on the value stolen and how the property in question was stolen.
Theft offenses are some of the most commonly prosecuted crimes in Texas, and individuals facing these charges understandably have lots of questions in the early stages of their cases. If you or a loved one is arrested for theft in Houston, it’s vital to know your rights and the value of defense representation from a trustworthy Houston theft defense lawyer.
The Law Office of Joseph Ruiz, PLLC, has helped hundreds of clients in Houston and surrounding communities approach their theft cases with greater confidence. We understand the stress and uncertainty that follow any arrest, and many people in this situation are not fully aware of their constitutional rights in the criminal justice system. Our goal in every case we accept is to help our clients avoid conviction if at all possible or minimize their penalties when a conviction is unavoidable.
Every US citizen has the right to legal counsel when accused of a crime. This right is protected by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Even a defendant who cannot afford an attorney or who does not wish to hire one can still have defense representation provided by the court. However, it’s important to understand the value that a private criminal defense lawyer can offer in your situation.
Hiring an experienced private defense attorney can offer a more personalized level of defense counsel in your theft case. The Law Office of Joseph Ruiz, PLLC, can carefully examine the details of your arrest and booking to ensure the police followed appropriate procedures and observed your rights. We will also thoroughly review the prosecution’s evidence, witness testimony from the incident in question, your past criminal record, and any other variables that come into play in your case to help you develop the most comprehensive defense possible.
It is crucial to take full advantage of your right to legal counsel after an arrest for theft in Texas. The penalties for theft can extend beyond fines, jail time, and liability to the victim for the value stolen. You may face additional civil liabilities, a criminal record that interferes with your ability to work, and various personal consequences that can influence your life for years to come. You need a defense attorney you can trust in this difficult situation.
The Texas Penal Code enforces penalties for theft offenses based on the value stolen. Theft is defined as the intentional taking of another person’s property with the intent of depriving them of that property. Under Texas law, it’s possible to face a theft charge for taking another person’s real property, personal belongings, certificates of lawful ownership, or services. The state also enforces specific theft laws pertaining to organized retail theft, cargo theft, intellectual property theft, and theft by means of fraud.
When someone steals property valued at $100 or less, the offense qualifies as a Class C misdemeanor. The standard penalty is a fine of $500 plus restitution to the victim of the value stolen, often with liquidated damages equal to the value stolen to compensate the victim. Jail time is not included in a sentence for Class C misdemeanor theft in Houston.
A theft offense can escalate to a Class B misdemeanor if it meets specific criteria:
Penalties for Class B misdemeanor theft in Texas typically include fines up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in county jail. Many defendants will be sentenced to both and owe restitution and liquidated damages to the victim. Theft qualifies as a Class A misdemeanor when the value stolen is between $750 and $2,500. The defendant could face up to one year in county jail, a fine of $4,000, or both, and they would also face restitution for the victim’s damages.
When defendants are sentenced to incarceration for misdemeanor theft, they serve out their sentences in county jail. However, if the offense qualifies as a felony, they will go to state prison instead. Theft can qualify as a felony in various ways, and the Texas Penal Code includes strict penalties for various forms of felony theft:
Penalties for felony theft in Texas can include fines of up to $10,000 and prison time of 180 days to two years. Most defendants will be sentenced to both, and if the defendant used a deadly weapon or had a previous felony conviction, the charge increases to a third-degree felony.
Third-degree felony theft applies when:
Penalties for third-degree felony theft include fines up to $10,000 and imprisonment for two to 10 years. Theft escalates to a second-degree felony if the value stolen is between $150,000 and $300,000 or if the stolen property was an ATM with less than $300,000 in contents. Theft only qualifies as a first-degree felony if the value stolen is more than $300,000, and the penalty includes fines up to $10,000 and prison time of five to 99 years.
Aside from these differentiating factors, a theft offense can also increase by a degree in light of specific details. For example, if the stolen property was under the control of a public servant, a party contracted by the government, a nonprofit organization, a Medicare provider, or an individual over the age of 65, this can automatically increase a third-degree felony theft to second-degree felony theft, or a second-degree felony theft to first-degree felony theft. Felony theft’s degree may also increase if the defendant tampered with a fire alarm or caused a fire alarm to go off while committing the offense.
In every criminal case prosecuted in the U.S., the prosecution has the burden of proving the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant will have the opportunity to enter an initial plea during arraignment following their arrest and booking. Some defendants may be released from custody while awaiting their arraignments, while others will be held in custody until their court dates. Your Houston theft lawyer can help you begin building your defense immediately after your arrest.
You have the right to legal counsel after an arrest, and you have the right to remain silent until you have legal representation on your side. After the police complete booking, you will be allowed to make a few phone calls. Make sure you speak to a reliable criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so they can begin working on your case. When you choose the Law Office of Joseph Ruiz, PLLC, to represent you, we will carefully review the details of your arrest and booking to ensure the police upheld your rights and followed the laws of due process. We can assist you in addressing any issues with the police handling your case.
You may have more opportunities for defense than you realize. For example, potential defenses against theft charges could include a lack of intent to deprive the owner of their property or mistaken ownership of the property in question. If you know you committed the offense in question, a plea deal could minimize your penalty. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will help clients determine their best defense options and approach their proceedings with confidence.
A theft conviction is one of the worst types of charges you can have on your criminal record. Many employers will automatically eliminate someone with a theft conviction from consideration for a job opening. We have an established record of helping clients put these isolated lapses in judgment behind them, keeping their records clean and allowing them to realize their full potential without the stigma of a theft conviction. From getting clients approved for special pre-trial intervention programs to getting outright dismissals, we’ve helped hundreds of clients facing theft accusations move forward with their lives.
If you are facing theft charges, it’s vital to speak with a Houston theft lawyer immediately to start building your defense. Contact the Law Office of Joseph Ruiz, PLLC, today and schedule your free consultation with a defense attorney you can trust.