THEFT DEFENSE ATTORNEY, Houston, TX

WHAT IS THEFT IN TEXAS?

Theft requires little explanation. Taking something that doesn’t belong to you without consent is stealing. We all know this. Theft, in its most common forms, is codified in Title 7, Chapter 31 of the Texas Penal Code. In simplest legal terms, one commits theft when one “unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.” Texas Penal Code Section 31.03.

Many years ago, Texas consolidated all common thefts under a single statute. (See Section 31.02 “Theft as defined in Section 31.03 constitutes a single offense superseding the separate offenses previously known as theft, theft by false pretext, conversion by a bailee, theft from the person, shoplifting, acquisition of property by threat, swindling, swindling by worthless check, embezzlement, extortion, receiving or concealing embezzled property, and receiving or concealing stolen property.”)

OFFENSE LEVELS AND PUNISHMENT RANGES

    • Class C Misdemeanor if the value of the property stolen is less than $100 — punishable by fine only.
    • Class B Misdemeanor if:
      – the value of the property stolen is $100 or more but less than $750;
      – the value of the property stolen is less than $100 and the defendant has previously been convicted of any grade of theft; or
      – the property stolen is a driver’s license, commercial driver’s license, or personal identification certificate issued by this state or another state
      Punishable by confinement in the county jail up to 6 months and a fine up to $2,000.
    • Class A Misdemeanor if the value of the property stolen is $750 or more but less than $2,500 — punishable by confinement in the county jail up to 1 year and a fine up to $4,000.
    • State Jail Felony if:
      – the value of the property stolen is $2,500 or more but less than $30,000, or the property is less than 10 head of sheep, swine, or goats or any part thereof under the value of $30,000;
      – regardless of value, the property is stolen from the person of another or from a human corpse or grave, including property that is a military grave marker;
      – the property stolen is a firearm, as defined by Section 46.01;
      – the value of the property stolen is less than $2,500 and the defendant has been previously convicted two or more times of any grade of theft;
      – the property stolen is an official ballot or official carrier envelope for an election; or
      – the value of the property stolen is less than $20,000 and the property stolen is: 

      • aluminum
      • bronze
      • copper or
      • brass

Punishable by confinement in state jail from 6 months to 2 years and up to a $10,000 fine.

  • Third Degree Felony if the value of the property stolen is $30,000 or more but less than $150,000, or the property is:
    – cattle, horses, or exotic livestock or exotic fowl as defined by Section 142.001, Agriculture Code, stolen during a single transaction and having an aggregate value of less than $150,000; or
    – 10 or more head of sheep, swine, or goats stolen during a single transaction and having an aggregate value of less than $150,000.
    Punishable by 2 years to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
  • Second Degree Felony if:
    – the value of the property stolen is $150,000 or more but less than $300,000; or
    – the value of the property stolen is less than $300,000 and the property stolen is an automated teller machine or the contents or components of an automated teller machine.
    Punishable by 2 years to 20 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
  • First Degree Felony if the value of the property stolen is $300,000 or more.
    Punishable by 5 years to 99 years or Life in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

FRAUD

We cannot discuss theft without fraud, which embodies other means by which to unlawfully obtain the property of another with intent to deprive the owner of the property.

  • Forgery of a Financial Instrument – The most common crime is stealing an unsigned check or creating an entirely fictitious check on another’s account, forging the rightful owners signature and passing it as your own or from the rightful owner to you without the owner’s permission. Even if you only accept a check you know to be a forgery constitutes a crime.
    – Forgery of a financial instrument by itself is a state jail felony punishable by 6 months to 2 years in state jail and a fine up to $10,000.
    – If one is actually able to obtain cash in the amount of at least $30,000 or more, the punishment ranges track the punishment ranges for theft listed above.
  • Credit/Debit Card Abuse – Using a stolen credit or debit card or the credit/debit card number without the card owners consent is a crime.
    – Credit/Debit Card Abuse by itself is a state jail felony punishable by 6 months to 2 years in state jail and a fine up to $10,000.
    – If one is actually able to obtain cash in the amount of at least $30,000 or more, the punishment ranges track the punishment ranges for theft listed above.
  • False Statement to Obtain Credit – This includes lying about your income, employment, or financial obligations on a loan application (car loan, mortgage, student loan or credit card application to name a few). A false statement may also include giving a false name, false Social Security number or any other requested identifying information. This type of fraud has received greater scrutiny since the 2008 mortgage market collapse due to the proliferation of loans obtained by misrepresenting borrower incomes and abilities to repay the loans. The so-called “stated income” and “no doc” loans created one of the largest financial crises in U.S. history, the effects of which are still felt today. The punishment ranges for this offense track the punishment ranges for theft listed above.
  • Identity theft – Obtaining, possessing, or using the personal identification information of another person without the person’s consent or authorization, such as name, Social Security number, driver license number, date of birth, of another person with the intent to commit fraud. This includes using this information to obtain property or credit. Identity theft uses a different punishment scheme based on the number of pieces of identifying information.
NO. OF ITEMS OF PERSONAL INFORMATION PENALTY
LESS THAN 5 ITEMS State jail felony 180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine up to $10,000
5 OR MORE, BUT LESS THAN 10 ITEMS Third-degree felony 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000
10 OR MORE, BUT LESS THAN 50 ITEMS Second-degree felony 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000
50 OR MORE ITEMS First-degree felony 5 to 99 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000
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  • Misapplication of Fiduciary Property — A fiduciary is person who has the power and obligation to act for another under circumstances that require complete trust, good faith and honesty.
    – Section 32.45 of the Texas Penal Code defines a Fiduciary as a (1) trustee, guardian, administrator, executor, conservator, and receiver; (2) an attorney in fact or agent appointed under a durable power of attorney as provided by Chapter XII, Texas Probate Code; (3) any other person acting in a fiduciary capacity, … and (4) an officer, manager, employee, or agent carrying on fiduciary functions on behalf of a fiduciary.– “Misapply” means to deal with property contrary to (1) an agreement under which the fiduciary holds the property; or a law prescribing the custody or disposition of the property.- A person commits an offense if he intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly misapplies property he holds as a fiduciary or property of a financial institution in a manner that involves substantial risk of loss to the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property is held.- The most common occurrences of misapplication occur in the closest of relationships; executors of estates, trustees, financial advisers, accountants and managers.
  • The Offense Levels for Misapplication of Fiduciary Property are as follows:
    • Class C misdemeanor if the value of the property misapplied is less than $100. Punishable by fine only.
    • Class B misdemeanor if the value of the property misapplied is $100 or more but less than $750.
      Punishable by confinement in the county jail up to 6 months and a fine up to $2,000.
    • Class A misdemeanor if the value of the property misapplied is $750 or more but less than $2,500.
      Punishable by confinement in the county jail up to 1 year and a fine up to $4,000.
    • State Jail Felony if the value of the property misapplied is $2,500 or more but less than $30,000.
      Punishable by confinement in state jail from 6 months to 2 years and up to a $10,000 fine.
    • Third Degree Felony if the value of the property misapplied is $30,000 or more but less than $150,000.
      Punishable by 2 years to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
    • Second Degree Felony if the value of the property misapplied is $150,000 or more but less than $300,000.
      Punishable by 2 years to 20 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
    • First Degree Felony if the value of the property misapplied is $300,000 or more.
      Punishable by 5 years to 99 years or Life in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
    • An offense described for purposes of punishment by Subsections (c)(1)-(6) is increased to the next higher category of offense if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the offense was committed against an elderly individual as defined by Section 22.04.
    • With the consent of the appropriate local county or district attorney, the attorney general has concurrent jurisdiction with that consenting local prosecutor to prosecute an offense under this section that involves the state Medicaid program.

CONSEQUENCES OF A THEFT OR FRAUD CONVICTION

The consequences of a theft or fraud conviction can be devastating. Theft and fraud allegations and convictions not only carry with them a negative social stigma but can substantially impact many aspects of your life, including employment, professional licensing, child custody, loss of security clearance or the inability to obtain security clearance, the ability to rent an apartment or home and the inability to obtain a loan. No employer will ever allow someone convicted of theft or fraud to handle company or client funds and no insurance company will provide a bonding policy to indemnify the employer against loss.

Theft and fraud are also crimes of moral turpitude (conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals) under Texas and federal law. A person charged with theft or fraud who is not a United States citizen can face serious immigration consequences. Under federal law, a guilty plea that results in a deferred adjudication is considered a conviction, which can result in deportation, denial of re-entry into the United States and denial of naturalization.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE CHARGED WITH THEFT OR FRAUD

Call Brian Roberts because the right lawyer makes all the difference in theft and fraud cases. The more money involved, the higher the stakes. Brian has handled numerous theft and fraud cases as a Special Crimes Bureau – Major Fraud Division prosecutor and as a defense lawyer and is here to help you if you are charged with theft or fraud. Brian is the lawyer you need with the experience you want.

BRIAN M. ROBERTS HAS EARNED THE CONFIDENCE OF HIS CLIENTS BY DEVELOPING A DEEP UNDERSTANDING OF THE SPECIFICS OF EACH CLIENT’S CASE

Call for a free consultation at (713) 237-8888.

Brian M. Roberts serves clients in Harris County and surrounding counties.

When your life and liberty are at stake, you need a lawyer who knows how to navigate the complicated criminal justice system. Brian M. Roberts believes that every client deserves a strong defense, whether they are a first-offender or someone with multiple convictions. As a criminal defense attorney, Brian M. Roberts has extensive experience and will wage a strong defense for you. Do not hesitate. If you have a problem, we encourage you to call us today for your free, confidential consultation.