Theft charges can arise for a number of reasons, ranging from misunderstandings to unwittingly being ensnared in something illegal to external pressures. When it happens, a Midland theft defense lawyer might be what’s standing between the accused and a potentially unfair fine or jail sentence.
Tommy W. Hull PC serves all of Midland County and into Odessa. A former prosecutor, Attorney Hull understands the system and he knows the best way to fight for defendants–precisely because he’s been on the other side. Call the office at (432) 223-0044 or contact him online to set up a free consultation.
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The Legal Definition of Theft
In layman’s terms, theft is when a person takes something that does not belong to them. It’s important though, to differentiate theft from two other crimes that it is commonly–but mistakenly–conflated with. Theft is not the same as burglary or robbery.
With theft, the accused is charged very simply with taking what does not belong to them. Whereas with robbery, the use of force must be involved. Burglary requires the accused to have physically entered a building to commit, or at least have intended to commit the crime.
Thus, theft did not involve threatening anyone physically or breaking into a home or office space. But that doesn’t mean theft can’t be more serious than robbery or burglary–the value of the item taken will decide that.
The Penalties for Theft in Texas
If the value of the stolen item is less than $50, we’re dealing with a Class C misdemeanor, which can result in no more than a $500 fine.
When the value of an item rises as high as $500, it can be a Class B misdemeanor, and property worth up to $1,500 can reach the Class A level, the most serious of the misdemeanor charges in Texas.
Don’t be fooled by the word “misdemeanor”. A person can still do jail time if convicted on the Class A or Class B charges and for up to a year. That’s enough to gravely alter the trajectory of a person’s life and the criminal record goes with them.
The window between a theft valued at $1,500 and one worth up to $20,000 is classified as a state jail felony. As the name suggests, there is a minimum prison sentence with this conviction–at least six months and potentially as long as two years. Furthermore, fines can go as high as $10,000.
As we pass the $20,000 threshold in value, a third-degree felony charge becomes possible, which guarantees at least 2 years behind bars and as long as a decade in prison. Second-degree felonies are when the value of the theft exceeds $100,000. The minimum sentence here is still two years in jail, but the max is extended out to 20 years .
First-degree felony charges–the most serious of all possible charges comes when a theft is valued at $200,000 or more. Five years prison time is the minimum and life behind bars is at least a possibility.
All of this is serious enough, but there’s still the possibility of civil court. If a criminal court convicts someone of theft, the victim is then entitled to bring a civil lawsuit under the Texas Theft Liability Act. The lawsuit allows for the possibility of even more punitive financial damages, beyond even basic restitution of what was stolen.
A person accused of a crime needs hope–the kind of well-grounded hope that is rooted in having a defense attorney who is experienced, passionate and ready to fight for them on every detail of their case.
How to Beat a Theft Charge in Midland County
There are viable strategies that a good Midland theft defense lawyer can employ. The prosecutor faces a significant burden of proof. The need to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and gain unanimous agreement of 12 jurors is a constant in any criminal trial, but there are also some very specific lines of defense that can be undertaken in a theft trial. For example…
- There was no criminal intent. A person had to know the property did not belong to them. This can apply in cases where there’s a misunderstanding between people. Even if the property really didn’t belong to the accused, they can be acquitted if this was an honest mistake.
- There was duress. A person pressured into taking someone else’s property can be acquitted on those grounds, depending on the credibility and gravity of the threat made to the accused.
- Due diligence was done. This can apply when the charges involve buying or selling of a stolen item, charges that also come under the legal umbrella of theft. If the accused was not aware they were dealing in stolen property and took reasonable steps to do their research, they can be acquitted.
- There were no false pretenses. This isn’t a defense against theft per se, but there are times when theft charges are also tied up with fraud charges. The lack of false pretenses by the accused can at least deal with the fraud charges.
- Property was returned. While the return of stolen property does not get an accused person off the hook, it does have the potential to make a difference with prosecutors and possibly judges when it comes time for sentencing.
Attorney Tommy W. Hull has over 15 years of experience as a criminal justice lawyer. He’s been a prosecutor and understands how things work on that side of the legal aisle. Today, he uses that understanding to fight zealously on behalf of those accused of crimes.
Call Tommy W. Hull PC today at (432) 223-0044 or contact him here online to set up a free consultation.