How Texas Law Defines Property Crimes
- December 12, 2022
- The Law Office of Greg Tsioros
- Comments Off on How Texas Law Defines Property Crimes
In 2020, an estimated 6.42 million property crimes occurred in the US. While people reported significantly reduced occurrences of property crime since 1990, it still represents a substantial loss. Unfortunately, that number is rising in some cities across the nation. 2022 may show large increases in property crime over previous years.
The term “property crime” might not mean what you think it means. In general, it refers to crimes such as burglary, theft, damage, and destruction. But did you know property crime in Texas also encompasses some online solicitation and false statement crimes?
Defining Property Crime
The FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program includes the following offenses as property crime:
- Larceny – theft
- Motor vehicle theft
It also states that the object of theft is taking money or property without force or the threat of force against victims (hence, robbery isn’t included). The exception is arson, which causes the destruction of property but may also subject victims to force.
Texas includes all those crimes as well as:
- Criminal mischief
- Criminal trespassing
- False statements to obtain property or credit
Type of Property Crimes in Texas
Burglary means entering any of the following without the owner’s consent:
- A habitation or building with the intent to commit a felony, theft, or assault
- A building or habitation and remain there with the intent to commit a felony, theft, or assault
- A building or habitation and commit or attempt to commit a felony, theft, or assault
Burglary of a motor vehicle is similar. Texas defines it as breaking into or entering a vehicle without the owner’s consent and with the intent to commit a felony or theft.
Graffiti is intentionally or knowingly drawing on, inscribing on, painting, writing on, spray painting, or marking on another person’s property without their permission using paint, a permanent marker, or an etching or engraving tool.
Criminal mischief (vandalism) is separate from graffiti, although it covers many of the same property crimes. In addition to marking, drawing, painting, or inscribing on someone’s property, it also includes damage or destruction of another’s property and tampering with someone’s property causing loss or substantial inconvenience.
Arson is intentionally or recklessly destroying property through the use of fire or explosion.
Criminal trespassing is entering or remaining in or on another person’s property without the owner’s effective consent. This crime can apply to various locations, including residential, agricultural, and recreational land, buildings, or vehicles.
The key phrase is “effective consent,” which means the offender had notice that entry was forbidden. It also includes where the offender received notice to leave but failed to do so. The notice can be oral, written, or implied through various enclosures and postings.
False statements to obtain property or credit occurs when someone intentionally or knowingly makes a materially false or misleading written statement to obtain property or credit, including a mortgage loan. This crime is considered fraud, and it may seem obvious. Still, families who do not observe legal limits when providing gifts of money tied to securing a mortgage loan commit the same type of crime, even if they just “fudge” a few numbers.
Charges for Property Crime in Texas*
|State jail felony or second- or first-degree felony
|Burglary of a motor vehicle
|State jail felony or Class A misdemeanor
|Class A or B misdemeanor, state jail felony, or third, second, or first-degree felony, depending on the amount of property damage and where the graffiti was committed
|State jail felony or third-, second-, or first-degree felony, depending on whether death or injury resulted and where the arson occurred
|Class A or C misdemeanors depending on the location and whether the trespasser carried a deadly weapon
|Online solicitation of a minor
|Third-degree felony when the minor is over 14. Second-degree felony when the minor is under 14
|False statement to obtain property or credit
|Third-degree felony for property valued at $30K to $150K. Second-degree felony for property values $150K to $300K. First-degree felony for property valued over $300K
|Criminal mischief or vandalism
|Class C, B, or A misdemeanor, state jail felony, or third-, second-, or first-degree felony, depending on the amount of loss from damage
Penalties for Property Crimes in Texas*
|Class C misdemeanor
|Fine up to $500
|Class B misdemeanor
|Jail sentence of up to 180 days, fine up to $2K
|Class A misdemeanor
|Jail sentence of 180 days to 1 year, fine up to $4K
|State jail felony
|Jail sentence of 180 days to 2 years, fine up to $10K
|Prison sentence of 2 to10 years, fine up to $10K
|Prison sentence of 2 to 20 years, fine up to $10K
|Prison sentence of 5 to 99 years or life, fine up to $10K
*All information sourced from Texas Penal Code Title 7 Chapters 28 through 35.
Defenses Against Property Crimes
An attorney may be able to defend you against a property crime charge with one of the following:
- Duress – you were threatened by another person that you or a third party would be harmed if you didn’t commit the offense.
- Justification – you committed an act that would otherwise be a criminal offense in an emergency situation to prevent public or private harm.
- Reasonable belief – you reasonably believed you had the owner’s permission to use or enter their property.
- Renunciation – you withdrew from participating in the act before it was committed and made substantial efforts to prevent it.
Depending on the situation and specific details of your case, your defense attorney may take a different approach. It’s important to find an attorney that knows the law and your defense options.
Why You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney
You need an experienced defense attorney on your side to try to dismiss your case or mitigate the results. Property crime in Texas is punishable by anything from a fine to life in prison. Your attorney can investigate the claims and determine the best way to eliminate or reduce your penalties.
Call the Office of Greg Tsioros to learn more.