Williamson County Theft Lawyer Jason Trumpler

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Theft in Texas is taking, or appropriating, someone’s property with the intent to deprive its true owner of his or her property. According to Section 31.03 of the Texas Penal Code, such appropriation occurs when one of three things happens:

  • the owner does not consent to the appropriation,
  • the property is stolen and the actor appropriates the property knowing it was stolen by another, or
  • when a law enforcement officer purports that property is stolen, and the suspect takes the property believing it to be stolen.

Theft comes in many shapes and sizes, as discussed below, and an important thing to note is that you do not have to have actually stolen the property to be guilty of theft. Under the Texas Criminal Code, an accused may be guilty of theft simply by taking property that he or she knows to be stolen.

In Williamson County, Texas there are often ways to get the charges reduced or get you into a diversion program that would ultimately result in a dismissal. Both of these things could potentially lead to an expunction, which is incredibly powerful and requires under Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure all agencies with any information regarding your arrest destroy them. Once the charge is expunged, you may deny being convicted, pleading guilty, or even being arrested.

Although expunction is a powerful tool and is sometimes available in theft cases, theft is a crime of moral turpitude, and it is important that you understand this in the event that your case cannot be expunged. Many professional licensing associations (for doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, etc.) will ask you if you have ever been charged with a crime of moral turpitude, and if you have a theft on your record, the answer to that question, unfortunately is yes.

For these reasons, you must hire a Williamson County theft attorney who understands how to investigate and diagnose your case so that expunction (removing the crime from your record) may be possible for you.

Types of Theft

SHOPLIFTING

Shoplifting is the most commonly charged form of theft, it is typically a Misdemeanor offense characterized as Class C Theft (Theft Under $100), Class B Theft (Theft $100 – $750), and Class A Theft (Theft $750 – $2,500). To prosecute and convict a person for Shoplifting the State must prove the following:

  • unlawful taking
  • of property of a specified value
  • with intent to deprive the owner of the property.

Usually, the most important element of a Shoplifting offense is intent. A person must act with intent to deprive the store of their property. Showing that a defendant was reckless, negligent or that their head was in the clouds when they walked out of a store with unpaid-for merchandise will not cut it. An accident does not qualify as Shoplifting.

Whether the scenario is purely accidental one or simply an uncharacteristic moment of poor judgment, when a person is arrested for Shoplifting, it will appear as Theft on a criminal history. Theft is considered a crime of moral turpitude and can seriously impact a person’s ability to obtain or retain employment. This highlights the importance of seeking an attorney who will work to have charges reduced or expunged and possibly pursue options like Pre-Trial Diversion which is specifically tailored to individuals with a clean record seeking to keep it that way.

THEFT BY CHECK

Theft by check occurs when someone commits a theft with a check as the main tool of the offense. Writing a hot check, alone, is not enough to prove such a theft.

The two main questions in most theft by check cases are:

(1) the identity of the person who wrote the check; and
(2) whether that person knew the check they were writing was worthless.

The prosecution must prove the defendant is the person who wrote the check and this can be extremely difficult despite whose name appears to have signed the check. Also, the prosecution must prove the Defendant intended to steal. Most jurors wouldn’t agree that someone who might have a low bank account is a thief.

There is very little reason to back down from a theft by check charge. The consequences are too great and the cases are too difficult to prosecute successfully.

THEFT OF SERVICES

There are several acts under Penal Code Sec. 31.04 which constitute a Theft of Service. To charge and convict a person of Theft of Service, the State must prove that an individual acted with intent to avoid payment for service and one of the following scenarios:

  • use of deception, threat or false token to intentionally or knowingly secure services
  • diverting the benefit of to an individual not entitled to the benefit of those services
  • holding rental property beyond the expiration of the rental period without the consent of the owner, or
  • intentionally or knowingly securing performance of services by agreeing to provide compensation and subsequently failing to pay in full after the service is rendered and payment is requested.

Theft of Service ranges from Class C Misdemeanor to First-Degree Felony. The level of offense depends on the value of the service alleged to have been stolen. Theft of Service becomes a Class B Misdemeanor (0-180 days in jail and a fine up to $2,000) at a value of $20 and a Felony (punishment ranges starting at a minimum of 180 days incarceration) at a value of $1,500.

Theft of Service is commonly misunderstood as merely the act of not paying for a service. It is not uncommon for people secure a service with the intent to pay and upon completion of that service no longer have the ability to do so. This is not necessarily Theft of Service.

UNAUTHORIZED USE OF A MOTOR VEHICLE

Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle is a state jail felony that occurs when a person “intentionally or knowingly operates another’s boat, airplane, or motor-propelled vehicle without the effective consent of the owner.”

Even if someone was not “stealing”, per se, a vehicle, he could still be on the hook for this crime if he did not have permission to operate the vehicle from the owner of the vehicle to operate it.

The punishment range for unauthorized use of a vehicle is 180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

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