Dozens of protests in cities around the United States, and in some cases around the world, have occurred in response to the death of George Floyd.
While many of these protests have been peaceful, some of them have spiraled out of control and become violent. Reports of riots and extensive looting taking place at many of these protests have put law enforcement on the offensive.
In Texas, the governor has made it known that severe penalties will face anyone charged with looting. We’ll examine exactly what these charges could be as well as what exactly constitutes looting in the state.
What Constitutes Looting in The State of Texas?
Looting in the state of Texas is classified as a crime against property. There are a variety of crimes that fall under this category, including theft and similar crimes.
There are no actual laws in the Texas Penal Code that use the term looting or give an actual definition to the crime. In the way that many people understand the term, this has to do with the taking of property from homes or businesses during a state of emergency or similar event.
In the state of Texas, these acts would constitute theft. Any person who is found to have knowingly taken property that wasn’t theirs during one of these events would be guilty of the crime of theft and brought up on the appropriate charges.
According to the Texas Penal Code, a person commits an offense if they unlawfully appropriate property with the intent to deprive the owner of that property.
Unlawful appropriation is defined as:
- it is without the owner’s effective consent
- the property is stolen and the actor appropriates the property knowing it was stolen by another
- 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
In the case of the protests, those who steal property from homes and businesses under the guise of being a protestor do so knowing the property they are taking are not theirs. There is no excuse for doing so just because other people are committing similar acts.
What Are The Penalties For Looting In Texas?
The state of Texas takes the crime of theft and acts of looting extremely serious. These crimes, depending on the severity and the value of the property in question, can lead to felony-level charges in some cases.
The penalties for theft are based on the value of the property stolen and are as follows:
- Theft of property valued at less than $100 is considered a class C misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine up to $500.
- Theft of property valued at between $100-$750 is considered a class B misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine up to $2,000.
- Theft of property valued at between $750-$2,500 is considered a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $4,000.
- Theft of property valued at between $2,500-$30,000 and is considered a state jail felony punishable by 180 days to 2 years in jail and a fine up to $10,000.
- Theft of property valued at between $30,000-$150,000 and is considered a third-degree felony punishable by 2-10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
If you are charged with a Texas theft crime for the act of looting, you should understand your basic rights. There are a number of possible defenses that can help to keep you out of jail but you must remain silent to help with your defense.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. He has been named one of the 3 Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, recognized by Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, Avvo, and others, and he is Lead Counsel rated.