The criminal justice system divides crimes into two main categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are less serious crimes. They typically only come with no more than a few months in jail and relatively small fines. In contrast, felonies are incredibly severe, with potentially lengthy prison sentences and fines. Additionally, felon status can take away some pretty important rights.
When is a crime a felony? It depends on the situation. Murder, for example, is always a felony. However, there are few other crimes that are always considered a felony. Even sexual assault can be a misdemeanor depending on the severity of the attack.
Theft is one of the crimes that may be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the situation. If you have been accused of theft, think about the value of the items that were stolen, the actual content, and whether or not violence was used during the theft. These factors can not only help you determine what types of penalties you may face, but also in creating a strong defense strategy to reduce your sentence or get the charges against you dropped or dismissed.
Let’s look at what makes theft a felony crime in the state of Texas.
Stealing Over $2,500 Of Merchandise
The most important factor in a theft case is the value of the property that was stolen — or attempted to be stolen. If the value of the merchandise is less than $2,500, you will most likely only face misdemeanor charges.
If the value of the merchandise is between $2,500 and $30,000, you may face state jail felony charges. From there, the charges increase. Stealing over $300,000 worth of merchandise, for example, is a first degree felony in our state.
Stealing Goats, Sheep, or Cattle
Yes, it actually mentions these things specifically in our laws.
If you are caught trying to steal sheep or other types of livestock, you will be hit with felony theft charges. The amount of sheep or livestock will determine what level of felony charges you face. Stealing “less than 10 head of sheep, swine, or goats, or any part thereof under the value of $30,000” is a state jail felony.
The penalties get more serious if you start to mess with certain types of animals. You can face a third degree felony charge if you are accused of stealing “cattle, horses, or exotic livestock or exotic fowl.”
If you are accused of stealing from a human corpse or from any part of a grave site, you could face state jail felony charges.
Stealing Precious Metals
Swiping any amount of aluminum bronze, copper, or brass is a state jail felony. (Tinfoil doesn’t count.) If the value of these metals is over $20,000, you will face more severe charges.
Stealing a Firearm or Controlled Substances
Any firearm will do. If you steal a firearm, even one valued at less than $2,500, you will face felony charges. If you are not authorized to have a firearm in the first place, you may face extra charges and penalties.
Felons cannot legally own a gun according to federal law; if you have a previous felony charge on your record, getting caught with a stolen firearm is a serious situation.
You may also face additional charges if you are found possessing stolen drugs or controlled substances. This crime is taken very seriously.
Stealing or attempting to steal any amount of controlled substances is a third degree felony. If the value of those substances is over $150,000, you will face more serious charges. Depending on the quantity of the controlled substances, you might have to fight back against additional possession or even trafficking charges.
When You Already Have a Criminal Record and are Charged with Theft in Texas
Everyone makes mistakes, but repeating those mistakes comes with more serious penalties. If you have two previous theft convictions on your record — even if they are misdemeanors and this incident should have been a misdemeanor — you will face felony charges for your third.
Don’t lose your right to vote or ability to own a gun due to being convicted of a felony. There are many defense strategies that can help you greatly reduce the charges and penalties against you — or even potentially get your charges dropped or dismissed. Use your knowledge of felony and misdemeanor crimes to start fighting back against charges.
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. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.