Theft is one of the most commonly prosecuted types of crimes in Fort Worth. All sex crimes involve one person taking another person’s property without their consent. There are many different types of theft crimes, and they range in seriousness. Some misdemeanor theft crimes carry the penalty of a fine up to $500. More serious theft crimes are considered felonies and carry penalties involving lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines.
Felony vs. Misdemeanor Theft Crime Charges
If you have been charged with a theft crime, it is important that you understand whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense. Felony theft charges are more likely to carry penalties involving prison time, making alternative penalty options such as pre-trial diversion programs less likely to occur.
What is the difference between misdemeanor and felony theft crime charges in Texas? Answering that question involves understanding Texas theft law, as well as the aggregations and enhancements that can bump up misdemeanor charges to more serious felony charges.
Understanding Texas Theft Law
Under Texas law, a theft occurs when the suspect “ “unlawfully appropriates property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property.” Several types of theft crimes are recognized in Texas, such as shoplifting, grand theft, grand theft auto, and larceny. Each theft crime has its own unique requirements, but all theft crimes have some requirements in common. For example, all Texas prosecutors must prove the following elements to convict a defendant of a theft crime:
- The defendant took something that didn’t belong to him or her
- The defendant did not have the consent of the owner to take the item
- The defendant did not have a legally valid justification for taking the item
- The defendant did not intend to return the stolen item to its rightful owner
Whether a Theft Crime is a Felony Depends on the Value of the Stolen Goods
Prosecutors will look at the fair market value of the stolen property when deciding to bring charges. In most cases, when a defendant steals $1,500 or less of property, he or she will face misdemeanor charges, which carry a prison sentence of up to a year in jail. Once the penalty increases to a prison sentence of a year or more, the charge will be considered a felony. Under Texas law, theft crimes carry the following penalties:
- When the stolen property is valued at $50 or less, the defendant will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $500 and no jail time
- When the stolen property is valued at between $50 and $500, the defendant will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in prison and a fine of up to $2,000
- When the stolen property is valued at between $500 and $1,500, the defendant will face Class A misdemeanor charges, punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $4,000
- When the stolen property is valued between $1,500 and $20,000, the defendant will face a state jail felony punishable by six months, which carries a penalty of a prison sentence between six months to two years and a fine of up to $10,000
- When the stolen property is valued between $20,000 and $100,000, the defendant will face third-degree felony charges punishable by a prison sentence between two and 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000
- When the stolen property is valued between $100,000 and $200,000, the defendant will face second-degree felony charges punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- When is the stolen property is valued between $200,000 or greater, the defendant will face a first-degree felony charge punishable by five to 99 years in prison (life in prison) and a fine of up to $10,000
How Misdemeanor Theft Charges Become Felony Charges
The chart above demonstrates that there is a clear line between misdemeanor and felony charges. When the value of the stolen property is under $1,500, prosecutors will bring misdemeanor theft charges. Conversely, if the stolen property’s value is over $1,500, the defendant will face more serious felony charges.
In some cases, suspects will commit multiple theft crimes. They will only steal less than $1,500 worth of property during each theft to try to avoid a felony charge. However, this plan does not always work. Law enforcement officials are often able to uncover the defendant’s multiple thefts. As a result, prosecutors may pool these separate theft attempts into one crime.
When they pool the thefts together, the stolen goods’ value increases an amount that warrants felony-level charges. This process is how prosecutors will elevate multiple misdemeanor theft into a single felony theft.
Suppose you are facing a felony-level theft crime charge after committing multiple smaller thefts. In that case, the prosecution is likely pooling your charges into one felony charge so they can seek jail time. Additionally, the combined laying of your charges could affect your plea bargaining ability. For example, if you have a pattern of repeated theft, prosecutors may be less likely to go easy on you and offer a diversion program or a favorable plea bargain. Every theft charge is a serious charge. However, if you are facing aggregated or felony-level sex charges, you could be serving jail time for years if you are convicted.
Contact Our Fort Worth Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
Kenneth N. Cutrer, Attorney at Law, has an in-depth understanding of Texas theft laws. He has successfully represented many clients in misdemeanor and felony theft charges, and he will use his experience and skills to negotiate the best possible outcome for your case. If you are facing theft charges in Fort Worth, you need an experienced lawyer. Contact Kenneth N. Cutrer, Attorney at Law, today to schedule your initial consultation.