Theft Charges Defense in Houston: Brazoria, Ft. Bend, Galveston, Harris & Montgomery Counties
When you have been accused of a theft, burglary, shoplifting or any other crime in or around Houston, your best chance for success is working with a knowledgeable attorney skilled in the defense of Houston theft charges.
In Texas, theft charges can cover a wide range of activities from shoplifting to armed robbery. The severity of the crime and the value of goods or services allegedly taken will determine whether the state decides to file misdemeanor or felony charges against you.
At the The Law Office of Greg Tsioros we aggressively represent individuals who have been accused of theft, burglary, and other property crimes. Our Houston theft charge defense is designed to protect our clients with tough, smart representation for misdemeanor and felony charges.
When defending a theft or robbery case, Mr. Tsioros carefully examines the details of the alleged offense for weak points. There may be factual issues relating to your intent to possess the property or consent to use the property. The value of the property may be disputable or difficult to accurately determine. The prosecutor may not have solid, undisputable evidence as to your identity as it relates to the alleged charges. As a former state prosecutor, Greg Tsioros knows how to locate and expose any points of weakness in the charges that have been filed against you.
Houston theft lawyer Greg Tsioros handles all theft cases including:
- Grand theft auto
- Armed robbery
- Bank robbery
Burglary is the unlawful breaking and entering of an occupied structure or building with the intent to commit a crime, typically a theft or felony while on the premises.
To convict someone of burglary, the state must prove the following:
- The individual entered the property forcefully (breaking and entering).
- The individual entered or trespassed on the property unlawfully.
- The individual stayed or resided within the property for a lengthy period of time.
- The individual entered with the intent to perpetrate a felony offense such as theft, a sex crime, or a violent crime.
In Texas, all burglaries are charged as felonies, and a conviction can result in:
- Jail time
- Community service
A burglary charge can remain on your criminal record indefinitely, which can cause problems finding a job, getting a loan, or taking advantage of some educational opportunities.
Burglary vs. Trespassing
Burglary is not the same as trespassing. Trespassing is defined as the act of entering or remaining on property belonging to another person without consent. It must include that:
- The person knew that unauthorized entry to the property was forbidden OR
- The person was told to leave the property but did not
A burglary charge could be added to trespassing if the individual committed the offense with the intent to commit a burglary.
Burglary vs. Burglary of a Motor Vehicle
Burglary of a motor vehicle is a different crime. It consists of breaking into or entering a vehicle or any part of a vehicle (like the trunk or RV storage area) with the intent to commit any felony or theft.
Note the language. The individual does not need to actually break into the vehicle to be charged with burglary of a motor vehicle. They merely need to enter it with the intent to commit a felony or theft.
Furthermore, the individual need not physically enter the vehicle. Burglary of a motor vehicle applies if the person puts any part of their body or any physical object connected with their body intrudes into the vehicle’s interior.
Robbery is the act of taking someone else’s property by force or threat of force. More specifically, you must intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury to another or intentionally or knowingly threaten or place someone else in fear of imminent bodily harm or death.
It differs from burglary in a couple of ways.
- Burglary includes the unlawful entry into someone else’s property with the intent to commit a crime that’s not necessarily theft.
- Burglary does not include the person to be unlawfully forced to relinquish their property.
Depending on the circumstances of the specific offense, the charge can be second-degree felony robbery or first-degree aggravated robbery. A robbery is designated “aggravated” if it causes serious bodily injury or involves the use or exhibition of a deadly weapon.
A second-degree felony, such as robbery, carries a potential prison sentence of 2 to 20 years and fines up to $10,000.
First-degree felony, such as aggravated robbery, can result in a conviction with up to 99 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Bank robbery has significant differences from robbery or aggravated robbery. Bank robbery is a federal offense investigated by the FBI. It is prosecuted by federal prosecutors, not the county or state. The punishment depends on several factors, including whether a weapon was used, if anyone was injured or killed, and the amount of money taken.
Shoplifting is the unlawful appropriation (taking) of property done with the intent to deprive the property’s owner. Most think of shoplifting as stealing from a retailer but can include theft from a non-retail business.
While some states include altering a price tag or concealing property in shoplifting, Texas has the same legal definition as theft. The perpetrator:
- Takes property without the owner’s consent
- Takes property already stolen by someone else while knowing the property is stolen
- Takes property in the possession of law enforcement
The penalties for shoplifting depend on the monetary value of the item(s) taken and the severity of the charge.
- Less than $100 is a Class C Misdemeanor charged with a $500 fine
- Between $100 and $750 is a Class B Misdemeanor charged with a $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail
- Between $750 and $2,500 is a Class A Misdemeanor charged with a $4,000 fine and one year in jail
- Between $2,400 and $30,000 is a State Jail Felony charged with a $10,000 fine and two years in jail
- Between $30,000 and $150,000 is a Third-Degree Felony charged with a $10,000 fine and 2 to 10 years in prison
- Between $150,000 and $300,000 is a Second-Degree Felony charged with a $10,000 fine and 2 to 30 years in prison
- Over $300,000 is a First-Degree Felony charged with a $10,000 and 5 to 99 years in prison
It’s possible to have a felony charge on your permanent record from a shoplifting conviction.
Theft Laws in Texas
On September 1, 2015, The Texas House of Representatives passed a bill that updated and changed several laws that were already in existence. House Bill 1396 included changes to a handful of laws, including the laws relating to the prosecution of criminal theft.
In Texas, theft crimes are prosecuted based on the amount of property or money that is stolen in a particular incident. The punishment ranges for different theft crimes reflect the amount of stolen property. For example, stealing a bag of chips from a grocery store may be prosecuted as a minor misdemeanor offense, while stealing a car worth $20,000 can lead to a prison sentence and a huge fine.
List of Theft Law Changes
The primary change to Texas theft laws in H.B. 1396 has to do with the monetary amounts attached to each penalty category. For example, in the past, the lowest level of theft crimes was listed as theft of property valued at $50 or less. This crime could be punished as a Class C misdemeanor and the convicted person could be ordered to pay up to a $500 fine. Now, however, that category has been changed to apply to theft incidents involving stolen property valued at $100 or less.
This could be good news for some defendants. For example, under the previous law, a person convicted of stealing $75 worth of property could be prosecuted under Class B misdemeanor charges. The punishment for a Class B misdemeanor could include a higher fine and potential jail time. Under the new law, a person who is convicted of stealing $75 worth of property may face punishment under Class C misdemeanor charges.
Some of the other changes to penalty categories include:
- Theft of property valued at $50 to $500 is now changed to theft of property valued at $100 to $750
- Theft of property valued at $1500 to $20,000 is now changed to theft of property valued at $2500 to $30,000
- Theft of property valued at $100,000 to $300,000 is now changed to theft of property valued at $150,000 to $300,000
- The differences in penalty categories for theft of property and theft by check have been removed and now the categories are the same for both offenses
Houston theft attorney Greg Tsioros brings experience as both a state prosecutor and a criminal defense lawyer to work in defending your case. If you are a suspect in a theft or burglary case, consult with a qualified lawyer as soon as possible. Do not wait until you are indicted to begin formulating your defense. The consequences of theft and burglary charges can range from fines and community service to jail and even prison terms. The Law Office of Greg Tsioros will negotiate reasonable sentences, deferred prosecution, and treatment options for defendants with drug and alcohol problems.