Arlington Theft Lawyer: Are you dealing with a theft charge in Arlington or any neighboring city in Tarrant County, Texas?
Understandably, such a situation can evoke feelings of stress and uncertainty about how to proceed or how to achieve resolution for your theft case. Our aim is to provide useful information that guides you towards making informed decisions about your situation in Texas.
Feeling frustrated and scared is a natural reaction. The fear of losing your job, going to jail, or having a permanent theft record can be intimidating. You might find yourself scouring the internet or discussion forums for advice on how to get your theft case dismissed.
Your worries about a theft charge are justified. It’s crucial to get your theft case dismissed and expunged from your criminal history. Regrettably, either a misdemeanor or felony theft conviction can significantly hinder your job search. Many employers consider theft and shoplifting convictions as grave as a felony conviction, leading them to question your trustworthiness as an employee.
Initially, let’s delve into the concept of theft and the associated crimes as defined by Texas law. To bring this information to life, I’ll share an anecdote of a former client whose theft case in Tarrant County, Texas, can provide insights on how to plan your defense strategy. Before that, let’s look at an overview of Texas theft laws:
In Texas, theft is legally defined as the unauthorized acquisition of another person’s property.
The penalty for a theft offense generally depends on the value of the property stolen. Possible consequences for a theft conviction in Texas include:
- Theft of property/services worth less than $100 may result in a Class C Misdemeanor
- Theft of property/services valued between $100 – $750 may result in a Class B Misdemeanor
- Theft of property/services valued between $750 – $2500 may result in a Class A Misdemeanor
- Theft of property/services valued between $2500 – $30,000 may result in a State Jail Felony
- Theft of property/services valued between $30,000 – $150,000 may result in a Third-Degree Felony
- Theft of property/services valued between $150,000 – $300,000 may result in a Second-Degree Felony
- Theft of property/services worth $300,000 or more may result in a First-Degree Felony
Whether classified as a felony or misdemeanor, theft is a grave criminal charge with severe long-term impacts. Beyond imprisonment and fines, a theft conviction could permanently affect your job prospects. Texas law considers shoplifting and various other theft offenses as crimes of moral turpitude. Being convicted of a crime against moral turpitude could limit your employment chances, risk deportation if you’re a foreign national, and could cast a shadow on your reputation for the rest of your life.
A few years back, I got a call from a young man arrested for theft in Arlington, Texas – more specifically, shoplifting. His name was Tyler. During our conversation, Tyler’s parents, evidently upset, interjected. They were in disbelief that their son was embroiled in an ordeal that could mar his future. Tyler was a first-time offender, midway through his college journey at Texas Christian University in Arlington, Texas.
Upon meeting Tyler in my office, I started addressing his queries. It was apparent that Tyler was distressed about his jail time. He expressed his fear of possible jail return, conviction, and the resultant stigma that could jeopardize his future prospects. This triggered his first question…
What Happens If I Was Present During The Theft, But I Wasn’t The One Who Stole The Items? Can My Case Still Be Dismissed?
Tyler initiated our discussion with a pertinent question – if you weren’t the individual who directly stole the items connected to the theft, could your case be dismissed? The answer could be yes. Tyler was referring to what’s known as the Law of Parties under Texas law.
As per the Law of Parties in Texas, even if you didn’t directly steal the items but rather aided, abetted, solicited, encouraged, directed, or tried to assist someone else in committing the offense, you could be held criminally liable. Essentially, if you played any role in promoting the theft, the Law of Parties could hold you accountable.
Nevertheless, I reassured Tyler that for the Law of Parties to apply, the State of Texas must establish its validity beyond a reasonable doubt. Simply being present at the crime scene doesn’t imply your criminal liability. There could be instances where you were at the wrong place at the wrong time, leading law enforcement to assume your involvement in the theft. Tyler then asked…
What Constitutes Theft? What Does The Prosecution Need To Prove?
To establish theft or shoplifting, the State of Texas must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that Tyler intentionally or knowingly deprived the owner of their property without their consent. In Tyler’s case, he was accused of shoplifting at a local store. After understanding Tyler’s side of the story, I felt it crucial to enlighten him about certain aspects of first-time shoplifting charges.
A comprehensive breakdown of a shoplifting charge’s specifics by a lawyer is vital. For example, if the store Tyler was in accused him of stealing items, but he unintentionally failed to scan an item while scanning the rest, proving criminal intent for theft could be challenging for the State of Texas.
Shoplifting cases often include scenarios where you haven’t passed all points of sale because you were distracted by something else. This is a common occurrence in stores like Walmart. They often arrest individuals moving from the main shopping area to the Garden center area, alleging that they were trying to exit the store without paying. In such a case, if you haven’t passed all points of sale, proving criminal intent for theft might be hard for the State of Texas.
As Tyler was experiencing his first arrest, I stressed the importance of not accepting a plea deal. We needed to strive for a dismissal of the charge due to its severe consequences upon conviction. This led to Tyler’s subsequent query,
Is The Defense For A Theft Charge Different From A Shoplifting Charge?
I explained to Tyler that, according to Texas law, there’s no distinction between theft and shoplifting. They are two separate terms defining the same legal offense. Regardless of whether the claim involves theft from a retailer, the same elements of theft must be established beyond a reasonable doubt by the State of Texas.
Theft and shoplifting differ primarily in the prosecuted circumstances. In a theft charge, for example, a Prosecutor might argue that an unfavorable business deal equates to theft. However, to substantiate theft in this situation, the State of Texas must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused party intended to defraud the other party at the time of contract execution, which is usually challenging.
Sometimes, businesses claim to have been victimized by customers, leading to theft charges. Companies like Rent-A-Center and other rent-to-own entities occasionally allege victimhood because a customer could no longer keep up with high-interest payments due to life’s adversities, leading them to report theft. This misuse of the penal code should be legally contested.
In essence, Tyler had to understand that he must refrain from accepting a plea deal. It was crucial to negotiate a dismissal so that he could have the charge and arrest removed from his criminal record. This led to Tyler’s final question…
If The Prosecution Can Validate All Elements, Can I Still Have This Shoplifting Case Dismissed and Expunged From My Record?
Absolutely! Even if law enforcement can substantiate every aspect of theft beyond a reasonable doubt, there is a strong probability that we could get Tyler’s case dismissed. This could be accomplished through a conditional dismissal or dismissal because of a Tarrant County Diversion Program.
Tyler was intrigued by the concept of a conditional dismissal for theft and wished to explore it further. A conditional dismissal operates like a contract. The Prosecutor agrees to drop your case if you fulfill certain terms and conditions beforehand. Your defense lawyer must engage in negotiations with the prosecutor, convincing them to dismiss the case in return for meeting specific conditions like community service, attending a theft course, proof of employment, etc.
Tyler was also keen to learn more about his options regarding Diversion Programs in theft cases. Specifically, Tarrant County, Texas, offers a unique Diversion program for such instances. This program merits Tyler’s attention because completing a Diversion Program paves the way for Immediate Eligibility for Expunction!
In Tarrant County, Texas, the Deferred Prosecution Program (DPP) serves as a diversion mechanism that admits certain theft offenses. It caters especially to first-time offenders with no prior criminal history. The program involves almost no supervision and offers a second chance to first-time offenders.
Eligibility criteria for this program include an age limit of 24 years, no previous juvenile or adult offenses of class b misdemeanor or above, and the ability to pass a drug test. The Deferred Prosecution Program offers two tracks – Track A is the conventional DPP track applicable to all theft and theft-related offenses. It includes steps like an application, background check, orientation, and passing of a drug test. It is mandatory to apply within 90 days of the case filing to be considered for the program.
Briefly, the DPP Program requirements are as follows:
- Track A fee = $125
- Orientation – requires a parent or accountability partner to be present for the 2-hour session where the necessary paperwork is signed and the program is initiated
- Program Length
- Misdemeanor Drug Crimes – 4 months
- Felony Drug Crimes – 8 months
- Drug Test
The Deferred Prosecution Program (DPP) considers the following offenses:
- Theft and service theft, valued less than $30,000 (Misdemeanor – State Jail Felony)
- Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle (State Jail Felony)
- Burglary of a Building (excluding habitation)
- Burglary of a Coin Operated Machine
- Credit Card and Debit Card Abuse (State Jail Felony)
- Forgery (misdemeanor)
- Possession, manufacture, distribution of tools for committing retail theft (misdemeanor)
I almost overlooked another program relevant to Tyler, given his brief military service. He needed to be informed about the Tarrant County Veteran’s Court Diversion Program.
Veteran’s Court Diversion Program in Tarrant County, Texas
The Tarrant County Veteran’s Court Diversion Program is an exclusive diversion program for U.S. military veterans. Additionally, there must be a clinical diagnosis of a brain injury, mental illness, or mental disorder, including PTSD, due to service in a combat zone or hazardous duty area. The program requires a fee of up to $500 and may include additional charges for drug testing, evaluations, and treatment.
The Veteran’s Court Program directly supervises all participants, requiring bi-monthly compliance hearings, and tracks progress. The program duration varies from 6 to 24 months, determined by individual needs and compliance.
To join the program, you must apply for a referral. Once received, a face-to-face interview and comprehensive assessment are scheduled for final approval. Lastly, a plea must be entered before the court with jurisdiction to commence the program.
The benefit? The case is dismissed, and the charge can be expunged from your criminal record.
The risk? If you don’t fulfill the Veteran’s Court Diversion Program’s terms, having already pleaded guilty, you relinquish the right to a jury trial. The judge is then free to sentence you within the permissible range.
Tyler was relieved and optimistic with the insights he received and the clear roadmap for safeguarding his freedom and clearing his criminal record.
What was the outcome of this real-life story? Although Tyler had multiple options to get his theft case dismissed, we successfully persuaded the prosecutor that he was only present at the theft scene and that his presence was merely a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. As a result, he was absolved and eligible for expunging his arrest and charge from his record.
Tyler’s situation echoes many others arrested for theft in Texas. Regrettably, many lack the crucial information necessary for making sound decisions post-arrest. We hope this information illuminates the workings of the criminal justice system as it applies to theft cases.
What about additional offenses akin to Theft within the jurisdiction of Texas? To initiate, let’s recognize other crimes, both felonies and misdemeanors, that have close ties with theft:
- Burglary of a Building
- Burglary of a Habitation
- Aggravated Robbery
- Unauthorized Usage of Personal Information
- Theft by Cheque
- Theft of Service
- Illegal Use of a Motor Vehicle
- Welfare Deception
- Acquisition of Stolen Goods
When analyzing Theft Crimes, it’s fundamental to comprehend the legal differentiation among theft, burglary, and robbery.
If you’re uncertain about the differences, you’re certainly not the only one. These three offenses are frequently collectively referred to in the media and popular culture, leading to a significant amount of confusion regarding what distinguishes a robbery from mere theft, or whether one can face a burglary charge without having stolen anything.
Herein, we aim to elucidate the distinctions as prescribed by Texas law, by outlining the legal definitions and penalties. Following that, we will explore the options available to you should you face charges for any of these offenses.
As mentioned earlier, Theft is characterized as the unlawful appropriation of any form of property from its rightful owner, with the intent to deprive the owner of said property. If an owner does not grant consent, or if an individual knowingly receives stolen property, they may be charged with theft. Penalties can be escalated if the perpetrator is a public servant, governmental employee, Medicare provider, or if the victim is an elderly person or a non-profit organization.
Theft charges can also apply to theft of services, trade secrets, theft by check, unauthorized vehicle use, using certain instruments for retail theft, theft of financial information, cargo theft, and petroleum product theft.
Robbery is a crime committed while executing a theft. The intent to obtain or maintain control of any property involved in the theft constitutes a robbery.
The label of robbery applies if an individual causes bodily harm to another person, or puts another individual in fear of physical injury or death during the act of theft. The perpetrator must demonstrate knowledge, intent, or recklessness for the charge to be applicable.
Aggravated robbery occurs when an individual causes severe bodily injury to another person or brandishes or employs a deadly weapon during the robbery. It is also considered an enhancement to robbery charges if the alleged victim is over the age of 65 or mentally, physically, or developmentally disabled.
Robbery is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. Aggravated robbery is a first-degree felony punishable by a minimum sentence of 5 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison, along with a maximum fine of $10,000.
Burglary is an offense committed when an individual enters a dwelling or structure without the owner’s consent, with the intent to commit theft, assault, or a felony.
A charge of burglary applies whether an individual hides within a structure with intent or enters and attempts or commits theft, assault, or a felony. The individual can be charged if any part of their body or any object attached to their body enters the structure.
Burglary penalties are a state jail felony for offenses committed in a non-habitation building. A third-degree felony charge will apply if the burglary was committed in any commercial structure that stores controlled substances or if the individual remained hidden inside the building to commit theft of a controlled substance. They are a second-degree felony if committed in a habitation. A first-degree felony charge will apply if the burglary was committed in a habitation and a felony other than felony theft was attempted or committed.
Special provisions apply to burglary in the following circumstances:
- Coin-operated or coin collection machines: Class A misdemeanor
- Vehicles: Class A misdemeanor, state jail felony, or third-degree felony under various circumstances
- Criminal trespass: various penalties based on the specific area entered without consent, and whether a handgun was carried by the offender
How to Respond If You’re Facing Charges Similar to Theft?
The most advisable course of action is to reach out to our law firm immediately upon being charged or arrested. By doing so, you can arrange a complimentary case review and preliminary consultation where we will examine the specifics of your case and enlighten you regarding your available options.
Acting swiftly is paramount. Any delay provides the prosecution with a head start and may even obstruct your ability to gather or utilize certain types of evidence.
Contact us and we’ll safeguard your rights and reputation while we construct the most potent defense possible against your charges.
Should you have further questions concerning your specific situation, we stand ready to assist you promptly with the answers to those queries.