Texas Theft / Larceny Laws
Overview of Texas Theft/Larceny Laws
A person has committed a theft (or larceny) if they take property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. Theft does not only have to be direct taking of another's property. Theft may be taking property that the defendant already knows to be stolen by someone else.
Example: Joe owns a pawn shop. Bob enters the shop and sells a necklace to Joe which Joe knows that Bob has stolen from its owner. If Joe takes the necklace, he may be found guilty of theft or larceny.
In Texas, it may also be considered theft if a person fails to perform some affirmative act which would prove that the item being sold or given to them has not been stolen.
Example: Sally fails to report to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles that the person who sold her a car failed to turn over to her a properly executed certificate of title (commonly known as a "pink slip"). She may be found to have violated Texas' law against theft. Also, if Sally fails to file with the county tax collector/assessor within 20 days of receiving the vehicle, this may also be grounds for finding her guilty of theft.
The amount or value of the property stolen does not necessarily have to be large in order to be convicted of theft. It can be any amount, large or small.
Defenses to Theft/Larceny Charges
- Lack of intent
- Mistake of fact (For example, the property was thought to have been stolen, but in fact, it was not.)
- Age (Although being a minor is not a complete defense, it may serve to lessen the penalty.)
NOTE: Entrapment is not a defense. Although a police officer or peace officer was solicited with an opportunity to commit the crime, or a facility was given that created an opportunity to commit the offense, this is not a defense to theft.
Penalties and Sentences
Theft/Larceny may receive charges varying from a "Class C" misdemeanor for the most minor of thefts, all the way up to a first degree felony for the most serious of thefts. The following guidelines are generally set for varying degrees of theft based on the amount or value of property taken:
- "Class C" misdemeanor: $50 or less
- "Class B" misdemeanor: $50 or more, but less than $500
- "Class A" misdemeanor: $500 or more, but less than $1,500
- State jail felony: $1,500 or more, but less than $20,000
- Third degree felony: $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000
- Second degree felony: $100,000 or more, but less than $200,000
- First degree felony: $200,000 or more
Based on the amount or value of property stolen, the penalty will go up. Penalties may range anywhere from a fine of no more than $500 (for a "Class C" misdemeanor), up to 5 to 99 years in prison and/or a fine of no more than $10,000 for a first degree felony.
Also, depending on who the defendant is and in what capacity he/she stole the property (i.e. whether he/she a public servant, or in contract with the government, or was the individual a Medicare provider, etc.) the penalty may be bumped up to the next higher level. Therefore, the guidelines mentioned above are meant to be followed generally. Depending on the exact circumstances of each crime, the penalty may be higher.
Texas Theft/Larceny Statute
Texas Penal Code, Title 7, Chapter 31
Penal Code, Title 7, Chapter 31 (scroll down for sections dealing with theft)
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.