What are theft charges?
Theft is when a person takes something that doesn’t belong to them without the owner’s permission or if they otherwise don’t have a legal right to do so. The rightful owner then files a police report, and law enforcement finds the accused thief and arrests them on theft charges.
So what are theft charges? Theft charges are the legal repercussion of taking something belonging to another person without their consent or for any legal reason, with no intention of returning the property. There are several types of theft and there are different levels of theft charges in varying degrees of severity with as many degrees of punishment.
What happens when theft charges are filed?
Contrary to what is seen on television, private citizens cannot press theft charges against another person. A private citizen can only file a police report, and from there, law enforcement has certain avenues they can take that may result in the accused person being arrested on theft charges. Written notice may also be mailed advising a person they will need to appear in court to face theft charges.
Whether a person has an arrest warrant issued for theft charges or a written notice of theft charges filed will typically depend on the type of theft involved. The most common types of theft charges are:
- Petty Theft
- Grand Theft
- Armed Robbery
- Receipt of Stolen Property
- Theft by Check
- Car Theft
In most cases of minor theft charges, a misdemeanor or a court summons is sent by mail. For serious charges, like a felony, an arrest warrant is issued. For a mailed court summons, if the person named doesn’t appear, an arrest warrant will be issued. Once an arrest warrant is issued for either a misdemeanor or felony theft charge, the person can be arrested at any time, and at any place.
Whether you appear voluntarily as per a written notice or you are arrested on theft charges, the first legal step is the arraignment, wherein a judge will read the theft charges you are facing. The judge will ask you how you wish to plea, either guilty or not guilty.
At this point, having legal counsel is recommended to help guide you through the process. Pleading guilty can lead to an entirely different process versus pleading not guilty depending on what theft charges you face. After the initial charges have been filed the judge will rule if you are to go directly to jail or offer a bail amount to be released.
Next, legal counsel will exchange evidence with the prosecuting attorney and your legal counsel will begin their investigation. The goal of this investigation is to find weaknesses in the theft charges that can result in the outcome of the court’s decision.
What is the punishment for theft?
The punishment for theft all depends on the level of the theft charges, the arrested person’s criminal background, and other surrounding circumstances at the time of the arrest. For example, the punishment typical of theft charges for shoplifting will depend on the value of the property stolen:
- Value between $500 and $2,000 is a Class B misdemeanor. In Texas, this is punishable by a $2,000 fine and a maximum of 180 days in jail.
- Value between $750 and $2,500 is a Class A misdemeanor. In Texas, this is punishable by a $4,000 fine and maximum of 12 months in jail.
- Value of stolen property or services between $500 and $1,499 can face punishment of a maximum fine of $4,000 and jail time up to 12 months.
- Theft charges for property or services between $1,500 and $19,999 is a felony and the defendant is sentenced to state jail.
A person arrested on identity theft charges will face a different level of possible punishment. The rise in identity theft has motivated states to institute stiffer penalties. In Texas, identity theft charges can be punished as follows:
- A minimum of 180 days up to two years in jail time with a maximum fine of $10,000
- A minimum of 2 years to a maximum of 10 years jail time with a fine up to $10,000 for a 3rd degree theft charges resulting in a felony
What is the difference between theft vs grand theft?
In Texas, grand theft charges are not all the same, but typically if the property value stolen exceeds $500, it could be considered grand theft. The type of theft will determine if the exact charge will be for grand theft charges or for a misdemeanor theft charge.
For example, a grand theft auto charge in Texas is punishable based on the value of the car stolen. The penalties can range for a minimum of 180 days to a maximum of 10 years in jail with a maximum fine of $10,000. The punishment of grand theft charges in Texas when an automobile is taken can be enhanced if a firearm was used during the theft, or if the defendant has prior felony convictions.
Is extortion a form of theft?
In the state of Texas, yes. While there isn’t any fear of immediate physical harm with this type of theft, extortion is considered blackmail, which can lead the accused to face theft charges.
When All Is Said and Done
You’ve been arrested on theft charges and arraigned. What if you’re not guilty though? Can you get theft charges dropped? If you have been wrongly accused of theft and the prosecution cannot provide evidence that supports the theft charges, yes, the theft charges will be dropped. If your defense attorney can prove to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt the theft charges are wrong or can present an entrapment defense, the theft charges will be dropped.