What is Felony Theft in Texas?
Felony theft, or larceny, is the act of taking property with malintent. This could be to cause harm to the original owner or to re-sell it to someone else. An officer can charge an individual with felony theft regardless of the value or size of the object. Texas possesses specific laws defining what felony theft looks like and the punishments that it comes with. If you have recently been charged with felony theft in Harris County, its advisable to speak to a Houston criminal defense lawyer right away.
Types of Felony Theft
There are several contexts in which an officer can charge you with felony theft:
- When you actively steal an object from an individual, knowing it will deprive them in some way. Ex. Stealing a car.
- When you knowingly accept a stolen item from someone. Even though you didn’t steal the item yourself, your knowledge of its theft is enough for an officer to convict you with felony theft. Ex. Buying a stolen car.
- When you unknowingly accept, or purchase, a stolen item but neglect to ask for any sort of proof of purchase or ownership. Ex. Buying a car without asking to see its title or registration. Even if you aren’t aware of its illicit status, you are still responsible for the stolen item.
Exceptions to the Law
There are several extenuating circumstances that can call for the dismissal of a case of felony theft:
- The owner/purchaser can prove the item in question, though assumed stolen, is not. The legal term for this circumstance is Mistake of Fact.
- The age of the accused individual could either serve as a pardon, or lessen the punishment associated with the larceny. For example, a young child might steal an object reported to the police as missing. In most cases, the authorities do not hold young children legally responsible for actions like this. However, an adolescent who is increasingly aware of their actions could still face charges, but lesser charges than an adult would face.
- Duress, or the threat/use of physical force, can excuse some cases of felony theft. This removes the aspect of malintent from the thief and places blame on the party that created the context of duress.
Larceny charges differ based upon context. In less severe cases, an individual could face a Class C misdemeanor and fine, while increasingly serious cases could result in a first degree felony charge. The value of the items stolen dictates whether authorities bring misdemeanor or felony charges.
- Class C: >$50
- Class B: $50 – $500
- Class A: $500 – $1500
- State Jail Felony: $1,500 – $20,000
- Third Degree Felony: $20,000 – $100,000
- Second Degree Felony: $100,000 – $200,000
- First Degree Felony: $200,000+
These guidelines for determining the charge in a felony theft scenario change depending on 1) the nature of the crime and 2) if the individual in question has already committed previous crimes. These details could bump a charge up to a new bracket and set of charges. For example, if an individual commits a Class C misdemeanor, but already possesses two charges of felony theft, their charge will automatically be a state jail felony – even if the item they stole is less than $50.
No matter the bracket, fines do not exceed $10,000 in any misdemeanor or felony charge. However, jail time varies between 5 and 99 years, depending on the severity of the charge, and the incidence of previous convictions. The more previous offenses an individual possesses, the greater the consequences will be.
Felony theft is a serious crime that can be committed by willing participants and unknowing accomplices alike. Be sure to purchase items from reliable sources and ask for proof before accepting these items into your possession. Smart consumer practices could prevent you from unwittingly committing a crime.