Fort Worth Theft Attorney

Theft Charges in Texas: Theft Consequences and Diversion Programs

Theft in Texas

One of the most common misdemeanor offenses young people get arrested for in Texas is theft. Unfortunately, theft charges can also result in devastating collateral consequences that affect a person’s future employment opportunities, education opportunities, and even the ability of a person to sit on a jury.

Our goal for theft charges in Texas is three-fold. First, we strive to keep the accused out of jail. Second, and equally important to us, we seek to avoid a conviction from becoming a part of the accused’s criminal history. Finally, we seek an outcome that allows for an expunction after the criminal case is resolved.

What is a Theft in Texas?

The legal definition for “theft” in Texas is the “unlawful appropriation of property with the intent to deprive the owner of property.”

What is Unlawful Appropriation in Texas?

Pursuant to Penal Code 31.03 (b), appropriation of property is unlawful if:

(1) it is without the owner’s effective consent;

(2) the property is stolen and the actor appropriates the property knowing it was stolen by another; or

(3) property in the custody of any law enforcement agency was explicitly represented by any law enforcement agent to the actor as being stolen and the actor appropriates the property believing it was stolen by another.

The simplest way to explain theft is that you took or maintained control over property that someone else had a greater right to possess without their effective consent.

What is Effective Consent with regards to Theft Offenses in Texas?

Pursuant to Penal Code 31.01 (3),  Effective consent” includes consent by a person legally authorized to act for the owner. Consent is not effective if:

(A) induced by deception or coercion;

(B) given by a person the actor knows is not legally authorized to act for the owner;

(C) given by a person who by reason of youth, mental disease or defect, or intoxication is known by the actor to be unable to make reasonable property dispositions;

(D) given solely to detect the commission of an offense; or

(E) given by a person who by reason of advanced age is known by the actor to have a diminished capacity to make informed and rational decisions about the reasonable disposition of property.

Texas Penal Code 31.03 is the general theft statute. This covers the most common types of thefts including offenses like shoplifting.

Can I get my theft case dismissed?

One of the most commons questions we get from a person who has been arrested for a theft charge is whether the case can be dismissed. For our attorneys, our goals for first-time offenders is to not only seek the best outcome but to find an outcome where even the arrest can be expunged off the person’s record. This may be achieved through certain reductions, diversion programs, or through dismissals.

We have had over 100 theft cases dismissed. 

Theft Diversion Progam

If you are 24 or under and this is your first time to be arrested for theft, contact our office about your eligibility to enter the Deferred Prosecution Program.

What are the Ranges of Punishment for Theft Offenses in Texas?

A person commits theft under Texas law if the person unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property and whether you are investigated, charged, or indicted for a theft related offense, you will need a team of Criminal Attorneys in Fort Worth to defend you. (Texas Penal Code Ann. §31.03 (general theft statute).

Like many states, Texas has a consolidated theft statute meaning that there is a single offense superseding separate offenses previously known as theft such as theft by false pretext, conversion by a bailee, theft from the person, shoplifting, acquisition of property by threat, swindling, swindling by worthless check, embezzlement, extortion, receiving or concealing embezzled property and receiving or concealing stolen property. This is what we call the general theft statute. (Texas Penal Code Ann. §31.03)

Committing Theft

You can commit theft in the State of Texas when you take something that does not belong to you, without consent or permission of the owner and without any other legal justification for doing so and at the time of the offense you have no intention of giving the property back to its rightful owner.

  • For example: If a fleeing criminal hotwires a car in order to use it as a getaway car and then abandons it he has committed theft.

Ways to Commit Theft:

It does not matter how long you keep the property, instead what matters is that you took the property from its rightful owner. “Owner” includes anyone with title to the property, possession of the property (whether lawful or not) or with a greater right to actual care, custody, control or management of the property than the defendant. The word “appropriates” refers in part to acquisition or exercise of control over the property, which should be distinguished from destroying of property.

Possession of Stolen Property

Receiving Stolen Property-Police officers do not always catch the thief in the act of stealing, instead they find suspects in possession of property that has been recently stolen. What happens next? It is possible that there is a reasonable explanation of why a person is in possession of stolen property or it is also possible that the suspect actually stole the property and kept it in her possession. If the suspect received stolen property and knew that the property was stolen, Texas Penal Code allows for that offense to be consolidated into the general theft statute. (§31.02)

Theft by Deception

Theft by Deception is similar to the basic theft charge, except that the individual employed some deceptive act or used deceptive words, which were relied upon by the victim in making the decision to turn over their property. For example, if someone makes a representation that they own a construction business and takes money from a victim to perform a job they never intended to complete, then they could be prosecuted for theft by deception. It doesn’t matter whether the victim voluntarily gave money to the defendant, what matters is that the victim relied on the defendant’s representations. This type of theft opens more defensive theories for the defendant because now the defendant can go more into detail about the formation of the contract, expectation of the parties, partial completion of any promises and the victim’s state of mind.

Theft by Extortion

Theft by Extortion is expressly consolidated into the crime of theft, however this offense requires the consent to appropriation be induced by coercion or threat in order to be considered an offense. (§31.02) “Coercion” means among other things, a threat, however communicated: (A) to commit an offense; (B) to inflict bodily injury in the future on the person threatened or another; (C) to accuse a person of any offense; (D) to expose a person to hatred, contempt or ridicule; (E) to harm the credit or business repute of any person; (F) or take or withhold action as a public servant, or to cause a public servant to take or withhold action. Texas explicitly requires appropriation of the property in order for extortion to exist, because the theft statute requires appropriation.

Punishment Classifications

Most of the states, including Texas, classify theft offenses according to the value of the stolen property or services and sometimes even by the type of property that was stolen. Prosecutors may rely on fair market value of the property or its replacement value. (§31.08)

under $100Class C Misdemeanor$500 fine
100750Class B MisdemeanorUp to 180 days in jail
7502500Class A MisdemeanorUp to 1 year in jail
250030000State Jail Felony180 days - 2 years state jail
30000150000Third Degree Felony2-10 years in prison
150000300000Second Degree Felony2-20 years in prison
300000+First Degree Felony5-99 years or life

Punishment Enhancements for Theft

If a person has prior convictions of any level of theft, any theft that the person later commits will be enhanced to become a higher-level offense. For example, if the second theft involves property or services valued at less than $50, it will become a Class B misdemeanor rather than a Class C misdemeanor. (§31.03(e)(2)(B))

Civil Liability for Theft

In addition to criminal penalties, a person who commits theft (including shoplifting) in the state of Texas may be civilly liable to the theft victim under the Texas Theft Liability Act. Victim of theft may recover a monetary award that includes actual damages caused by the theft (such as retail value of the item if not returned in sellable condition) and a civil penalty of no more than $1000. If the person who commits theft is a minor, then minor’s legal guardian may be civilly liable under the Texas Theft Liability Act, but monetary recovery is limited to actual damages and the cap is at $5,000.

Defenses for Theft

The two most common defenses are consent and intent. Generally, a defendant could claim that he or she had (or believed he or she had) the owner’s permission or consent to use the vehicle on the instance in question. If that is true, then there is no crime. Defendant could also claim that he or she did not intend to deprive the owner of the vehicle, in which case the offense would be unauthorized use of a vehicle, not theft.

Common issues in investigation and prosecution of theft are that the police must show that the offender knew they took someone else’s property without permission or that they have or had possession of the property.  If you have been arrested or indicted on a Theft Charge, call our team of Criminal Defense Attorneys at 817-203-2220 to defend your case.

There are other types of theft that are covered in separate statutes such as:

Tarrant County Diversion Programs

Deferred Prosecution Program

Veteran’s Court

Mental Health Diversion


Client Review

By: A. Soria

Title: Thank you for getting my theft case dismissed!

I just want to say thank you to Attorney Benson and the staff at Varghese & Summersett for helping me get through my case. I was put into a situation in which I was falsely accused of theft in a supermarket and with the help of Attorney Benson, I was able to clear my name and have my case dismissed. Throughout the entire ordeal, Mr. Benson made it clear to me that he would do everything in his power to assure that this injustice being made against me would be taken care of. I am so glad that I made the right decision in choosing Attorney Benson to represent me. I have nothing but respect for Mr. Benson and want to wish him, along with his kind staff many blessings. Thank you, for you are truly an angel in disguise.

Rating:★★★★★ 5 / 5 stars

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