Theft Crimes

A person commits theft “if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.” Penal Code § 31.03(a). The potential penalties for a theft crime depend, in part, on the type of property stolen and the value of the property stolen. Penalties can range from a Class C misdemeanor all the way up to a first-degree felony.

The most common form of theft is shoplifting an item from a retail establishment such as a department store. Another common type of theft charge occurs when an employee steals money or other property from an employer.

A theft can become elevated to a robbery if the person intentionally or knowingly threatening or placing another in fear of imminent bodily injury. Penal Code § 29.02.

Attorney for Theft in San Antonio, TX

If you were arrested for a theft crime in the greater San Antonio area, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Flanary Law Firm, PLLC. Don Flanary represents clients charged with property and theft crimes throughout San Antonio and Bexar County. He also represents clients in the surrounding counties of Kendall County, Comal County, Guadalupe County, Wilson County, Atascosa County, Medina County, and Bandera County.

Call for a free consultation to discuss the criminal charges pending against you and the best ways to aggressively fight the charges at every stage of case. Call (210) 738-8383 today.


Penalties for Theft Crimes in Texas

The current punishment for theft crimes in Texas are listed below:

  • A theft is classified as a Class C Misdemeanor when:
    • the value of property stolen is less than $100.
  • A theft is classified as a Class B Misdemeanor when:
    • the value of property stolen is $100 or more but less than $750;
    • the value of property stolen is less than $100 and the defendant has been previously-convicted of theft;
    • the property stolen is a driver's license, commercial driver's license, or personal identification certificate issued by any state.
  • A theft is classified as a Class A Misdemeanor when:
    • the value of property stolen is $750 or more but less than $2,500.
  • A theft is classified as a State Jail Felony when:
    • the value of property stolen is $2,500 or more but less than $30,000;
    • the property is less than 10 head of sheep, swine, or goats or any part thereof under the value of $30,000;
    • regardless of value, the property is stolen from the person of another or from a human corpse or grave, including property that is a military grave marker;
    • the property stolen is a firearm;
    • the value of the property stolen is less than $2,500 and the defendant has been previously convicted two or more times of any grade of theft;
    • the property stolen is an official ballot or official carrier envelope for an election;
    • the property stolen is aluminum, bronze, or copper wire and value is less than $20,000;
    • the property stolen is tubing, rods, or water gate stems and value is less than $20,000.
  • A theft is classified as a Third-Degree Felony when:
    • the value of property stolen is $30,000 or more but less than $150,000;
    • the property is cattle, horses, or exotic livestock or fowl stolen during a single transaction and the aggregate value is less than $150,000;
    • the property is 10 or more head of sheep, swine, or goats stolen during a single transaction and having an aggregate value of less than $150,000; 
    • the value of property stolen is $20,000 or more but less than $100,000.
  • A theft is classified as a Second-Degree Felony when:
    • the value of property stolen is $150,000 or more but less than $300,000;
    • the value of the property stolen is less than $300,000 and the property stolen is an automated teller machine or the contents or components of an automated teller machine.
  • A theft is classified as a First-Degree Felony when:
    • the value of property stolen is $300,000 or more;

Aggravated Factors Leading to Enhanced Penalties

An offense described for purposes of punishment set out above increases to the next higher category of offense if it is shown on the trial of the offense that:

  • the defendant caused a fire exit alarm to sound or become activated;
  • the defendant deactivated or prevented a fire exit alarm or retail theft detector from sounding;
  • the defendant used a shielding or deactivation instrument to prevent or attempt to prevent detection of the offense by a retail theft detector; 
  • the property was owned by a non-profit organization; 
  • the owner of the property appropriated was, at the time of the offense, an elderly individual; 
  • the defendant was a Medicare provider in a contractual relationship with the federal government at the time of the offense and the property appropriated came into the defendant's custody, possession, or control by virtue of the contractual relationship;
  • the defendant was in a contractual relationship with a government at the time of the offense and the property appropriated came into the defendant's custody, possession, or control by virtue of the contractual relationship; or
  • the defendant was a public servant at the time of the offense and the property appropriated came into the defendant's custody, possession, or control by virtue of his status as a public servant. 

Definitions under the Theft Statute in Texas

Texas law provides for several legal definitions for terms used in statutes related to theft crimes. For instances, the term "appropriate" means to acquire or otherwise exercise control over property other than real property.” Penal Code § 31.01(4)(B). Appropriation of property is unlawful if it “is without the owner's effective consent.” Penal Code § 31.03(b)(1).

An intent to deprive an owner of his property means an intent “to withhold the property from the owner permanently or for so extended a period of time that a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property is lost to the owner.” Penal Code § 31.01(2)(A).

The term “effective consent” includes consent by a person legally authorized to act for the owner. Consent is not effective if it is:

  • induced by deception or coercion;
  • given by a person the actor knows is not legally authorized to act for the owner;
  • 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;
  • given solely to detect the commission of an offense; and
  • 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.

Presumptions in Theft Cases in Texas

Possession of recently stolen property is not sufficient to establish knowledge that property was stolen. Walker v. State, 539 S.W.2d 894 (Tex.Crim.App. 1976). Instead, Texas law provides that the possession of property recently stolen is a mere circumstance from which no inference of guilt is drawn as a matter of law.

When the offers an explanation when arrested that he bought the property in good faith without knowledge that it had been stolen, a good faith and lack of knowledge defense should be submitted to the jury, but an instruction on “recent possession and explanation” is unnecessary. Callaway v. State, 151 Tex.Crim. 94, 204 S.W.2d 842 (1947).

In some cases, the prosecutor will ask for a jury instruction regarding receivers in the business of receiving second-hand property. In other cases, the use of the Penal Code § 31.03(c)(3) presumption regarding second-hand dealers would be unconstitutional as applied to the defendant because failure to record the required information was not under the facts of this case, an indicator that, more likely than not, he knew that any given item he may have bought had been unlawfully acquired.


This article was last updated on Tuesday, January 3, 2016.

Click Here to Request Your Free Consultation
Request Your Free Consultation

* All fields are required.

In the Media
Defender of the Year Featured in Defender Magazine