Many people have viewed videos online of “porch pirates” who steal packages off of the front stoops of unknowing victims seemingly getting the justice they deserve… a glitter bomb that explodes when they open it!
Yes, Houstonians thought porch pirates everywhere were getting glittered up thanks to an ingenious design by a former NASA engineer who has been a victim of porch piracy.
Former NASA Engineer Creates Booby-Trap for Thieves
The specially designed packages were made to look just like your average postal delivery left on a porch. But inside, a biodegradable glitter bomb is shown to be triggered, showering alleged thieves in glitter upon the package’s opening – along with some rather unpleasant scents.
While these videos were later admittedly set up (at least partially), watch thieves showered in glitter online is still pretty entertaining. Actually thievery of folks’ porch-side deliveries, however, is no laughing matter.
The theft of packages off people’s porches is a crime that has following the boom in e-commerce over recent years, and law enforcement activity surrounding these incidents has increased.
In fact, a new Texas law enacted in September 2019 takes aim at the increased incidents of porch thievery that make homemade glitter bomb packages unnecessary. Here’s what you need to know.
How Texas Identifies Theft
Under Texas law, a person commits theft when they unlawfully acquire any property with the intent to deny the property from its rightful owner. Basically, this means that a person commits a theft in Texas when they take something that doesn’t belong to them.
In order to prove this crime was committed, a prosecutor must demonstrate there was no legal justification or consent from the owner of the property. It must also be true that the accused has no intention of ever giving the property back to its rightful owner.
Ways Theft Can Be Charged in Texas
In Texas, there isn’t just one type of theft charge. In fact, a theft crime may be classified into one of seven different charges depending on the value of the services or property that were stolen.
In some cases, the type of property stolen may play a role as well, impacting potential penalties associated with a conviction. Charges include misdemeanor and felony classifications, each of which is explained below.
Class C Misdemeanor
When property valued at less than $50 is stolen, or a service valued at that amount, then the crime is considered a Class C Misdemeanor charge. A conviction is punishable by fines up to $500.
Class B Misdemeanor
For crimes involving property or services valued at less than $500 but more than $50, the offender may be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor. Note theft of a driver’s license or other forms of identification falls under this charge as well. Penalties include up to six months in prison and up to $2,000 in fines.
Class A Misdemeanor
If services or property valued between $500 and $1,500 are stolen, then the charge level reaches Class A Misdemeanor. A guilty verdict can land an offender in jail for up to one year and fined up to $4,000.
State Jail Felony
For crimes involving property or services valued at less than $20,000 but more than $1,500, a state jail felony can be charged. A convicted offender can face up to two years in jail and fines reaching $10,000.
Property or services valued at less than $100,000 but more than $20,000 can result in this charge. If found guilty, the sentence can include up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
For goods or services valued at less than $200,000 but more than $100,000, this class of felony can be charged. The punishment if found guilty can include up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
For items or services valued at more than $200,000, this can be charged. This is punishable by up to life in prison and fines up to $10,000.
Where Stealing Texans’ Porch Packages Lands
With the new legislation in place, porch theft incidents in Texas are further evaluated based on how many porches packages were taken from. Furthermore, this crime is now considered “theft of mail,” making it a felony offense every time.
- For perpetrators who steal from less than 10 people, a state jail felony can be charged. It is punishable by up to two years in jail and fines up to $10,000.
- Between 20 and 50 Texans’ homes equates to second-degree felony charges. A conviction can leave an offender facing up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
- When more than 50 people are victimized, the charge is a first-degree felony, which is punishable by up to life in prison and fines up to $10,000.
It’s also important to remember that mail theft is not simply a state crime, but can be prosecuted on the federal level as well.
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.