Were you arrested or charged with a theft offense? If so, you should contact Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian immediately for legal representation. Defending against theft-related charges on your own can be a daunting and overwhelming task. Our legal team will work tirelessly to create the right defense strategy to get the charges against you dropped. Facing a possible conviction can be a stressful experience. We want to work to get your case dismissed so you won’t have to suffer the consequences of having a criminal record.
Theft could involve a range of actions. Anything from burglary to credit card fraud can lead to a misdemeanor or felony conviction. Imprisonment and fines aren’t the only penalties you could face. Even if you’re innocent, an arrest could ruin your reputation. After serving your prison sentence, you could have trouble finding a job or place to live. Your family might ostracize you, and your friends might decide they don’t want to be around you anymore.
The Collin County theft defense lawyers of Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian will fight by your side until the very end. We can advocate for your rights to ensure you’re treated fairly throughout the legal process and work to secure your freedom and future. You will be our priority as we’re building a defense against the theft charges and investigating to find a way to discount the prosecution’s case. Get started today by calling us for a free consultation at (972) 369-0577.
What Is Theft?
Theft in Texas is taking, or appropriating, someone’s property with the intent to deprive its true owner of his or her property. According to Section 31.03 of the Texas Penal Code, such appropriation occurs when one of three things happens:
- the owner does not consent to the appropriation,
- the property is stolen, and the offender appropriated the property knowing someone else stole it, or
- when a law enforcement officer purports that property is stolen, and the suspect takes the property believing it to be stolen.
Theft comes in many shapes and sizes, and an important thing to note is that you need not have actually stolen the property to be guilty of theft. Under the Texas Criminal Code, an accused may be guilty of theft simply by taking property that he or she knows to be stolen.
In Collin County, Texas, there are often ways to get the charges reduced or get you into a diversion program that would ultimately result in a dismissal. Both of these things could potentially lead to an expunction. Under Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, all agencies with any information regarding your arrest must destroy all records if they receive an expunction order. Once the charge is expunged, you may deny being convicted, pleading guilty, or even being arrested.
Although expunction is a powerful tool and is sometimes available in theft cases, theft is a crime of moral turpitude, and it is important to understand this if your case cannot be expunged. Many professional licensing associations (for doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, etc.) will ask you if you have ever been charged with a crime of moral turpitude. Unfortunately, if you have theft on your record, the answer to that question is yes.
For these reasons, you must hire a Collin County theft attorney who understands how to investigate and defend your case so that expunction (removing the crime from your record) may be possible for you.
Types of Theft Crimes In Texas
Texas recognizes a range of offenses that fall under the legal definition of theft. The specific charge you face will depend on the circumstances of the crime. The different types of theft in Texas are:
- Aggravated robbery
- Burglary of a vehicle
- Criminal trespass
- Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle
- Credit or debit card fraud
- Forging or altering a prescription
- Tag changing
- Theft by check
- Theft of services
Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian has experience defending clients accused of theft crimes in Collin County and throughout Texas. We know the circumstances of each of the cases we take are unique. We approach each one with a new perspective to ensure we provide effective legal services that meet your specific needs.
Texas Sentencing for Theft Crimes
Theft can be a misdemeanor or felony offense. Different kinds of theft fall under different levels or classes depending on the severity of the crime. Texas uses sentencing guidelines a judge can refer to when determining the punishment you deserve. The guidelines outline a maximum amount of jail time and a maximum fine you could receive. If a jury convicts you of theft, the penalty you face will depend on the value of the item that was stolen.
- Class C misdemeanor – Stolen property less than $100 in value. Up to a $500 fine
- Class B misdemeanor – Value of the stolen property is between $100 and $750. Up to 180 days in jail and a maximum of a $2,000 fine
- Class A misdemeanor – Stolen property has a value between $750 and $2,500. Maximum of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine
- State jail felony – Stolen property valued between $2,500 and $30,000. 180 days to 2 years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine
- Third-degree felony – Value of the stolen property is between $30,000 and $150,000. Between 2 and 10 years in prison and a maximum of a $10,000 fine
- Second-degree felony – Stolen property has a value of at least $150,000 but no more than $300,000. Imprisonment between 2 and 20 years and up to a $10,000 fine
- First-degree felony – Stolen property is more than $300,000. 5 to 99 years in prison and no more than a $10,000 fine
Enhanced penalties could occur if:
- The owner of the property involved in the offense was at least 65 years old or a nonprofit organization
- The stolen property was under a public servant’s control
- The offender prevented the fire alarm from going off or caused it to go off while committing the crime
- The stolen property was under a Medicare provider’s control
- The stolen property was under the control of a party in a contractual relationship with the government
If you get arrested for theft and already have a prior conviction for a felony offense, except a state jail felony under Texas Penal Code section 12.35(a), you could also face a harsher penalty. For example, a third-degree felony theft charge with a prior felony conviction would become a second-degree felony.
In Texas, robbery and aggravated robbery are two separate offenses carrying different punishments. The difference between facing up to 99 years in prison or as little as two years in prison may come down to whether there was a mere display of a deadly weapon.
To prove robbery, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant:
- was in the course of committing a theft,
- intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes, threatens, or places another in fear of bodily injury, or death,
- for the purpose or with the intent to maintain control of the property.
For purposes of robbery or aggravated robbery, bodily injury is defined as “physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.” Robbery is a second-degree felony with a range of punishment from 2 to 20 years confinement and a $10,000 fine.
Robbery becomes aggravated robbery if the state alleges and can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant did any of the following in addition to committing robbery:
- causes serious bodily injury to another,
- uses or exhibits a deadly weapon, or
- causes bodily injury or threatens or places another in fear of imminent bodily injury or death, and that person is 65 years or older or disabled.
Serious bodily injury is defined as “bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.” Aggravated robbery is a first-degree felony with a prison sentence between 5 and 99 years or life confinement and up to a $10,000 fine.
Aggravated robbery is also classified as a 3(g) offense (an offense falling within the purview of Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42.12 Sec. 3(g). These types of crimes are those that our legislature has identified as the most serious of criminal offenses. Individuals charged with a 3(g) offense may not receive regular probation from a judge and are not eligible for parole until at least one-half of the original sentence has been served.
When charged with a 3(g) offense such as aggravated robbery, the value of competent and aggressive legal representation cannot be overstated. Whether you are charged with aggravated robbery or seeking legal assistance on behalf of a close friend or family member who is in jail awaiting prosecution, contact our office to schedule a consultation with an attorney.
Burglary of an Automobile
Burglary of an automobile (also referred to as burglary of a motor vehicle) falls under its own section of the Texas Penal Code, Sec. 30.04, but is quite similar to other burglaries. To charge and convict a person of burglary of an automobile, the state must prove:
- knowing or intentional breaking or entry into,
- any part of a vehicle, with
- the intent to commit any felony or theft.
Entry includes physically placing any part of the body or object connected with the body inside a vehicle.
Most burglary of an automobile cases will be classified as a Class A misdemeanor. The penalty could include up to 1 year in county jail and a $4,000 fine. However, a judge can modify the sentence under several scenarios. With one prior conviction for the same offense, the minimum term of confinement is enhanced to six months. The offense can also increase to a state jail felony with two prior convictions for the same crime. One feature which makes burglary of an automobile unique is that, by statute, any previous case resolved with deferred adjudication probation can be treated as a conviction for enhancement purposes.
Many burglary of an automobile cases depend upon circumstantial evidence. For instance, it is not uncommon for the case to be based upon pawn tickets that an investigation can trace back to the Defendant. Circumstantial evidence is legally sufficient evidence for a jury to convict a defendant. However, these cases leave room to mount a successful defense.
Even when a case fails to present viable legal or factual defenses, you can still achieve favorable outcomes through strategic legal representation and negotiation. Contact our office today to discuss how to begin approaching your burglary of an automobile case.
Burglary of a Building
Burglary of a building is the same crime as burglary of a home as far as the elements involved. However, the punishment for burglary of a building is less than that of burglary of a home. Entering or remaining in a building without the owner’s consent and with the intent to commit a felony, theft, or assault is burglary. Again, these other offenses don’t actually need to be committed. There must simply be the intent to commit one of them.
Burglary of a building applies to any building that is not a “habitation” as defined in the burglary of a home section. Burglary of a building is a state jail felony, punishable by 180 days up to 2 years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Burglary of a Business
Like burglary of a home/habitation, burglary of a business (also known as burglary of a building) falls within the scope of the general Burglary statute under Texas Penal Code Sec. 30.02. To prove burglary of a business, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
- knowing and intentional entry or concealment
- into a building other than a habitation
- without the effective consent of the owner
- with the specific intent or attempt to commit a felony, theft, or assault.
Burglary of a business or burglary of a building is a state jail felony. The sentence could be between 180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Like burglary of a habitation, the state is not required to prove a physical act of breaking a window or door, nor the completion of a crime the Defendant intended to commit once they gained entry. Sometimes disputed cases focus upon whether the entry was a mere criminal trespass due to the absence of intent to commit a felony, theft, or assault at the time entry was achieved. Other defenses could include issues such as consent to enter, misidentification, or ownership of the building.
Credit or Debit Card Fraud
Texas Penal Code Sec. 32.31 outlines 12 different acts that qualify as credit or debit card fraud. To paraphrase the statute, the state may prosecute a credit or debit card fraud for:
- fraudulent use of an expired or canceled card to obtain a benefit
- fraudulent use of another’s card without that person’s permission to obtain a benefit
- receiving a benefit from the fraudulent use of a card, use of a fictitious credit card with intent to obtain a benefit
- knowingly receiving a benefit from the fraudulent use of a card
- stealing or knowingly receiving a stolen credit card
- purchasing a card from someone other than the owner
- selling another’s credit card
- inducing another to use a card for a purchase he or she cannot afford
- possession of a card without the owner’s consent and with the intent to use it
- possession of two or more incomplete credit cards with intent to complete them and without the card issuer’s permission
- accepting a card for the purchase of goods or services with the knowledge that its use was fraudulent
- accepting a card for the purchase of goods or services and fraudulently failing to furnish purchased goods or services
Credit or debit card abuse is a state jail felony with a punishment from 180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000. The penalty could increase to a third-degree felony if it is shown that the victim was an individual 65 years of age or older.
Credit or debit card abuse cases sometimes involve investigations that take place over several months. During the investigation, law enforcement may encourage suspects to waive important rights or make detrimental statements. Whether a detective has contacted you to discuss a potential credit or debit card abuse or you have a pending case, it is important that you hire an attorney immediately.
Forgery is defined by Texas Penal Code Sec. 32.31 as altering, making, completing, executing, or authenticating writing for any of the following purposes:
- to appear to be the act of another who did not authorize such act
- to appear to be executed at a time or place or in a numbered sequence other than was, in fact, the case, or
- to be a copy of an original when no such original existed.
Forgery also includes utilizing or possessing forged writings under certain circumstances. For forgery to constitute a crime, the offender must do it with the intent to defraud or harm another.
A forgery is classified as a state jail felony when the writing forged is a will, codicil, deed, and certain financial or commercial instruments. A forgery is classified as a third-degree felony when it is done to replicate money, securities, postage, or certain documents or licenses issued by the government. A forgery charge can be enhanced by one offense level if it is shown that the offense was against someone at least 65 years old.
A forgery charge can be fact-intensive, especially when considering all the caveats involved in properly classifying the level of offense. Sometimes the strength of a forgery case will depend upon the existence and content of statements made by a defendant to the investigating detective.
Forging or Altering a Prescription
Section 481.129 of the Texas Health & Safety Code covers prescription fraud and criminalizes possessing or using a prescription with a forged signature, a prescription belonging to another person, or a prescription bearing a false, suspended, or fictitious registration number. It also makes it illegal to fraudulently call in a prescription or obtain a controlled substance through fraud or misrepresentation.
Penalties for prescription fraud range from Class A misdemeanor to a second-degree felony, depending on the circumstances and the type of drug being sought. At Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian, we defend prescription fraud cases aggressively by requiring proof:
- the prescription, if any, otherwise meets the legal definition of a prescription referenced by the code;
- the person who possessed or phoned in the invalid prescription is indeed the correct person;
- challenging whether the prescription is forged in the first place; and
- challenging the entire circumstance could not have been explained by a mistake, miscommunication, or other explanation.
Defending prescription fraud cases requires aggressive representation by an attorney who is available 24/7 for such emergency counseling.
Grand Theft Auto
There is no specific section in the Texas Penal Code that sets forth a definition or range of punishment for “grand theft auto.” However, it is a common term. Theft of a vehicle is treated the same as theft of any other property. Depending on the value of the car, the degree of the charge can range from a Class B misdemeanor (for a car valued at or below $500) to a first-degree felony (for a vehicle valued at $200,000 or higher).
If the state has a weaker case and cannot prove that the accused intended to steal the vehicle, they may instead decide to charge him or her with unauthorized use of a vehicle, a state jail felony. Your attorney must understand the importance of the value of the car as it relates to your case. For example, if you are charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, but the vehicle was only worth $1,000, a theft charge may be something that ultimately carries less punishment.
Burglary under the Texas Penal Code occurs when someone, without consent of the owner, enters or remains in a building not open to the public with the intent to commit a felony, theft, or assault.
Committing burglary in a “habitation” (essentially any building designed to accommodate people staying overnight) carries heavier penalties than burglary committed in other buildings. If the burglary occurs in a home and the felony intended is anything other than theft, it is a first-degree felony.
Importantly, it is irrelevant whether or not the accompanying theft, assault, or another felony actually occurs. All that matters for a burglary charge is that one of those is intended. Additionally, no “breaking” is required. Burglary may occur by crawling through an open window or even walking through an unlocked door.
If the burglary happens in a home and the accompanying intended actions constitute either a misdemeanor (i.e., assault) or felony theft, the burglary is considered a second-degree felony. First-degree felony punishment ranges from 5 to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. A second-degree felony is punishable by 2-20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Unfortunately, the root of a burglary is often drug or other addictions or habits that the accused is trying to support. It is important to get those issues treated and/or addressed along with any criminal charges.
Shoplifting is the most commonly charged form of theft. It is typically a misdemeanor offense characterized as Class C theft (property under $100), Class B theft (property between $100 and $750), and Class A theft (property between $750 and $2,500). To prosecute and convict a person for shoplifting, the state must prove the following:
- unlawful taking
- of property of a specified value
- with intent to deprive the owner of the property.
Usually, the most critical element of a shoplifting offense is intent. A person must act with intent to deprive the store of their property. Showing that a defendant was reckless, negligent, or that their head was in the clouds when they walked out of a store with unpaid-for merchandise will not cut it. An accident does not qualify as shoplifting.
Whether the scenario is purely accidental or simply an uncharacteristic moment of poor judgment, when a person is arrested for shoplifting, it will appear as theft in a criminal history. Theft is considered a crime of moral turpitude and can seriously impact a person’s ability to obtain or retain employment. This highlights the importance of seeking an attorney who will try to get the charges reduced or expunged and possibly pursue options like pre-trial diversion, specifically tailored to individuals with a clean record seeking to keep it that way.
Tag changing under Texas Penal Code Section 32.47, also known as fraudulent destruction, removal, or concealment of writing, is most commonly a hybrid of theft or shoplifting. To charge and convict a person of this crime, the state must prove:
- destruction, removal, concealment or alteration, substitution or impairment of a writing
- with the intent to harm or defraud another.
Although this offense applies to a wide variety of scenarios, the most common is when the state has alleged that a person changed tags on the merchandise before making a purchase.
Tag changing is a Class A misdemeanor with a jail sentence from 0 days up to 1 year and a fine of up to $4,000. Tag changing is also considered a crime of moral turpitude and can leave a serious blemish in a person’s criminal history.
Theft by Check
Theft by check occurs when someone commits a theft with a check as the main tool of the offense. Writing a hot check alone is not enough to prove theft.
The two main questions in most of these cases are:
- The identity of the person who wrote the check
- Whether that person knew the check they were writing was worthless
The prosecution must prove the Defendant is the person who wrote the check, and this can be extremely difficult despite whose name appears to have signed the check. Also, the prosecution must prove the Defendant intended to steal. Most jurors would disagree that someone who might have a low bank account is a thief.
There is very little reason to back down from a theft by check charge. The consequences are too great, and the cases are too difficult to prosecute successfully.
The crime and subsequent punishment could be either a misdemeanor or felony. It depends on the amount of the written check or total amount of multiple written checks. Offenses involving a check for at least $2,500 are typically a felony charge.
Theft of Services
Several acts under Penal Code Sec. 31.04 constitute a theft of service. To charge and convict a person of theft of service, the state must prove that an individual acted with intent to avoid payment for service and one of the following scenarios:
- use of deception, threat, or false token to intentionally or knowingly secure services
- diverting the benefit to an individual not entitled to the benefit of those services
- holding rental property beyond the expiration of the rental period without the consent of the owner, or
- intentionally or knowingly securing performance of services by agreeing to provide compensation and subsequently failing to pay in full after the service is rendered and payment is requested.
Theft of service ranges from Class C misdemeanor to first-degree felony. The level of offense depends on the value of the service alleged to have been stolen. The crime becomes a Class B misdemeanor (0-180 days in jail and a fine up to $2,000) at a value of $20 and a felony (sentencing starting at a minimum of 180 days in jail) at a value of $1,500.
Theft of service is commonly misunderstood as merely the act of not paying for a service. It is not uncommon for people to secure a service with the intent to pay, and upon completion of that service, they no longer can do so. This is not necessarily theft of service.
Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle
Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle is a state jail felony that occurs when a person “intentionally or knowingly operates another’s boat, airplane, or motor-propelled vehicle without the effective consent of the owner.”
Even if someone was not “stealing” a vehicle, they could still be on the hook for this crime if they did not have permission from the owner to operate it.
The penalty ranges from is 180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Common Defenses Against Theft Charges
Prosecutors have the challenging job of proving you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The penalties are severe if there’s a conviction, but various defenses could get your charges dropped or reduced. The most common are:
- You made a mistake – Mistakes happen. You might not have realized or known you were stealing someone else’s property. State law requires that for a crime to be committed, an offender must know they stole the property or that someone else stole it. Relevant evidence could prove that you own the item or had the owner’s permission to access it.
- You borrowed the property – The prosecutor must prove your intent to deprive the owner of the property you took permanently. If you were permitted to borrow it, such as a motor vehicle, the theft did not occur.
- You returned the item – You might be guilty of theft, but you returned the stolen property to the owner. Although that won’t necessarily result in a dismissed case, a judge could issue a reduced sentence given these circumstances.
- You were under duress – Maybe you felt you had no other choice but to commit the crime because someone threatened to harm you or your family.
- Wrongfully accused – Sometimes, eyewitnesses identify the wrong perpetrator. If someone incorrectly accused you of theft, sufficient evidence showing you were somewhere else or couldn’t have possibly committed the crime could get the charges dropped.
The Collin County theft defense lawyers of Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian will review the facts of your case to determine which defense we believe can achieve the most favorable outcome. The goal is to get your case dismissed, but if we can reduce your charges or enter into a plea agreement for a lesser sentence, that could benefit your future.
Theft Crimes Frequently Asked Questions
Our clients often ask us questions about the next steps involved in a criminal case and the penalties they could face if they’re convicted of theft, shoplifting, or another offense. We want to ensure you can prepare for the legal road ahead. We have answered the most commonly asked questions from individuals arrested or charged with a theft crime in Collin County.
The State typically files a criminal case within 1-2 months. Theft cases can range from a Class C Misdemeanor all the way to a First Degree Felony. The level of offense will depend on the value of what is alleged to have been stolen.
Misdemeanor Theft is the most common form of Theft prosecuted in Collin County.
- Class C Theft (property less than $50),
- Class B Theft (property $50 – $500);
- Class A Theft (property $500 – $1,500).
Felony Theft involves property valued at $1,500 or more.
Potential punishment increases with each degree of theft:
- Class C: $0 – $500 fine
- Class B: 0 days – 180 days in jail and/or $0 – $2,000 fine
- Class A: 0 days – 1 year in jail and/or $0 – $4,000 fine
The vast majority of Theft cases resolved by a plea or finding of guilt result in some form of probation. Misdemeanor probation can last up to 24 months and can include a wide array of probation terms and conditions, including payment of hefty fines and fees.
Theft is a crime of moral turpitude. If you are convicted of a theft offense, it will remain on your record for life. Unlike some criminal offenses, a Theft conviction will usually raise the concern or disapproval of a current or potential employer.
There are a few of ways to keep a Theft off your record. The likelihood of doing this will depend upon a variety of factors, including the circumstances of the case and the person who is accused of committing Theft.
The first appearance is more like a work session than anything else. It is an opportunity for your attorney to meet with the prosecutor and discuss the case. Typically, the prosecutor will have a police report, video, and witness statements to share with your attorney along with an initial recommendation for a punishment that the you can receive in exchange for a guilty plea. The first appearance date is usually concluded by selecting another appearance date.
In a shoplifting case, there is usually one or more store employee who claim to have seen something take place inside the store. Frequently, a shoplifting case will involve camera footage shot from one or more angles. Depending upon the circumstances, the police may have conducted further investigation when they arrived, but they don’t always. The State does not need a police officer to testify to prove their case.
Many places of business employ a loss prevention department. These are people who can be dressed up like officers or in plain clothes secretly watching customers. The law allows these people to use limited force to prevent shoplifting. They may grab you, detain you, and question you until the police come. They are not required to play by the same rules that police do because the law considers them to be private, as opposed to government, entities… therefore their thoughtless conduct rarely negates an arrest – but judges and juries have little tolerance for such conduct by store employees and may give them little credibility as witnesses.
The law allows the State to try and put you on the hook for the conduct of another person. Specifically, the law says “A person is criminally responsible for an offense committed by the conduct of another if, acting with the intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense, he solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the person to commit the offense.” However, mere presence alone will not make someone a party to the offense.
In this type of case, the prosecution has the burden to show you did something to affirmatively aid the person committing the theft. Mere presence alone is not enough.
The law also allows the State to try and prove a dollar amount that varies from the sticker price. Specifically, the law says that “the value of the property taken is the fair market value of that property at the time and place of the offense,” and “fair market value is . . . the amount the property would sell for in cash, giving a reasonable time for selling it.” Merchants are aware of the statutory amounts, and it’s not uncommon for them to attempt to find creative ways to ‘pile-on’ the price. This is a specific area a trained attorney knows to attack.
Studies have shown that there is a link between shoplifting and depression especially for middle-aged women. While this may not be a circumstance which leads to a jury finding someone not guilty, it is something to consider when talking about punishment.