Austin Theft Attorney
Austin Theft Lawyer | Criminal Defense Attorney in Austin, Tx
If you are accused of theft charges in Austin, TX, having a theft attorney by your side can significantly sway the outcome of your case. Potential penalties can be severe and range all the way to a first degree felony. Austin Criminal Attorney Rob Chesnutt has extensive experience in criminal defense, and can guide you through the theft case with open communication throughout the process.
Whether you’re dealing with minor shoplifting charges or major burglary allegations, we are committed to helping you navigate the turbulent waters of the legal process with confidence and clarity.
Jail Release After a Theft Arrest
If you or a loved one has been arrested on a theft crime, understanding the process of jail release is the first thing on your mind. In instances of minor misdemeanors like shoplifting, you may be eligible for a Personal Recognizance (PR) Bond. This is a form of release that doesn’t require payment upfront, relying instead on your promise to appear in court when required. It’s primarily granted based on your prior criminal record and the severity of the charge.
For more serious offenses such as felony theft, obtaining a PR bond may be more challenging. The accused might have to remain in custody until the bail is set by a judge. It’s absolutely essential to have a competent theft lawyer to help get you out of county jail.
Texas Definition of Theft Crime: Texas Penal Code §31.03
The Texas Penal Code §31.03 states that you commit theft by unlawfully appropriating or acquiring some one else’s property without their consent, with the intent to deprive them of their property permanently. The penalties for theft range from a minor fine to serious time in state prison. This offense can take various forms, including but not limited to:
Receiving stolen property
The severity of a theft charge can be either a felony or a misdemeanor and depends on the person’s property value of the stolen items and the circumstances surrounding the theft, like any threat or use of violence.
Misdemeanor Theft Charges
According to §31.03(e), theft is considered a misdemeanor when:
Class C Misdemeanor Theft: The value of the property stolen is less than $50. This is sometimes referred to as petty theft.
Class B Misdemeanor Theft: The value of the property is $50 or more but less than $500. It also includes property less than $50 if the defendant has a previous theft conviction.
Class A Misdemeanor Theft: The value of the property is $500 or more but less than $1,500. Some consider this level theft offense to be grand theft.
These classifications determine the severity of the punishment, with Class A being the most severe misdemeanor. Penalties for theft may vary significantly if there were any elements of violence or if the offender has previous theft or criminal convictions.
Felony Theft Charges
The Texas Penal Code elevates theft charges to felonies when the value of the theft committed exceeds certain thresholds or when specific types of property are involved. Felony charges are more severe and carry heavier penalties.
State Jail Felony Theft
Under §31.03(e)(4), theft is classified as a state jail felony if:
The property is $1,500 or more but less than $20,000; or
The property is less than $1,500 in value, but the defendant has two or more previous theft convictions.
Third Degree Felony Theft
Pursuant to §31.03(e)(5), theft constitutes a third degree felony if:
The value of the theft committed is $20,000 or more but less than $100,000; or
The property stolen is an ATM or its contents, regardless of the value.
Second Degree Felony Theft
According to §31.03(e)(6), theft is a second degree felony if:
The value of the theft committed is $100,000 or more but less than $200,000.
First Degree Felony Theft
Per §31.03(e)(7), theft is deemed a first degree felony if:
The value of the stolen property or services is $200,000 or more.
The potential penalties for felony theft crimes are considerably more severe, and can include significant fines and extensive years in prison. As always, the exact penalties may vary based on other factors such as prior convictions and the presence of violence. If charged with felony theft, it is especially important to speak with a theft attorney ASAP.
Other Forms of Property Crimes in Texas
There are several other types of property crimes defined under Texas law as criminal offense. These include:
Theft of Service
Under §31.04, a person commits theft of service if they intentionally or knowingly secure the performance of a service by deception, threat, or false token without paying for it. Texas considers Theft of Service stealing, just the same as shoplifting. This offense can include uber or taxi rides, or any other service if you refuse payment.
Theft by Check
Theft by Check is covered under §31.06. It occurs when a person issues or passes a check knowing there are insufficient funds in the account and fails to make good on the payment within 10 days of receiving notice of the deficiency.
Credit Card Abuse
Credit card abuse is covered under §32.31. It occurs when a person unlawfully uses or possesses another’s credit card with the intent to obtain benefits fraudulently, make purchases without consent, or use it in any other unlawful manner.
Unauthorized Use of Motor Vehicle
UUMV, or unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, is considered a serious offense in Texas. Under the Texas Penal Code §31.07, it occurs when a person takes control of another person’s vehicle without their consent and with the intent to deprive them of the vehicle.
It is related to motor vehicle theft, but is easier for the prosecution to prove. This offense is typically charged as a state jail felony, but can be elevated to a third degree felony if certain aggravating factors are present, such as causing serious bodily injury or death to the owner of the vehicle or a passenger.
Restitution for Theft Offenses
In addition to potential fines and jail time, individuals convicted of theft offenses in Texas may also be required to pay restitution to the victim. Restitution is a court-ordered payment meant to compensate the victim for any financial losses or damages they incurred as a result of the theft.
The amount of restitution ordered will vary depending on the circumstances of the case, but it can include things like the value of stolen property, medical expenses for any injuries caused during the theft, and any other financial losses incurred by the victim.
If a person is unable to pay the full amount of restitution ordered by the court, they may be required to set up a payment plan or perform community service in lieu of payment. Restitution is not dischargeable in bankruptcy.
Auto Theft and Carjacking
Auto theft, or stealing a vehicle with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it, is a serious offense in Texas. Under §31.03 of the Texas Penal Code, it is considered a state jail felony and can result in fines and up to two years in prison.
Carjacking, which involves using force or intimidation while steal a car from someone, is also a serious crime in Texas and can result in even harsher penalties. Under §29.02 of the Texas Penal Code, carjacking is considered a first degree felony and can carry a sentence of up to life in state prison.
Can A Theft Charge Be Dropped?
It is possible for a person facing theft charges to have them dropped in Texas, but it will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. If there is not enough evidence to support a conviction or if the victim decides not to press charges, a criminal lawyer may convince the prosecutor to drop the case.
Additionally, individuals charged with theft may be able to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor to drop the charge after restitution is made and/or theft classes are attended.
Can a Theft Charge be Reduced?
A theft charge in Texas can potentially be reduced to a lesser offense, such as criminal mischief or a lower-level theft charge. This will depend on the specific circumstances of the case and the discretion of the prosecutor.
In some cases, individuals may also be able to pursue alternative sentencing options, such as deferred adjudication or pre-trial diversion programs, which can result in the dismissal of charges upon completion of certain requirements.
Consult with a criminal defense lawyer to explore all possible options to defend a theft charge in Texas. Your theft lawyer may be able to get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor, which will have significantly less impact on your daily life.
Probation for Theft Crimes
In some cases, individuals may be eligible for probation instead of jail time for theft crimes in Texas. A good theft defense attorney will always explore this option. Probation involves supervision by a probation officer and compliance with certain conditions, such as restitution payments and community service.
Sometimes a prior criminal record will prevent a probation offer, but as long as there isn’t a violent history, it is often on the table. Violating the terms of probation can result in further penalties, including time in county jail.
Consequences of a Theft Crime on Your Criminal Record
A theft conviction can have serious consequences on your criminal record, including difficulty obtaining employment, housing, and other opportunities. Work with a criminal defense lawyer to explore options for minimizing the impact of a theft charge or conviction on your record.
When accused of stealing, your professional license may be affected, as theft is considered a “crime of moral turpitude”. Speak with your theft lawyer before agreeing to any plea that requires you be convicted.
Theft Defense Lawyer in Austin
Whether facing grand theft or petty theft shoplifting charges in Texas, you need a good theft defense from an experienced criminal defense attorney. A skilled theft attorney can evaluate your case, gather evidence, and develop a strong defense strategy to aggressively defend your rights and achieve the best possible outcome.
At ATX Legal, our law office has extensive experience defending clients against theft charges in Central Texas. Fill out a contact form or text us at 512-677-5003 for a free consultation.