Texas Petty Theft and Other Theft Laws

Like the majority of states, Texas classifies its theft offenses according to the value of the stolen property or services -- and in some instances, by the type of property that is taken.

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Defining Theft Under Texas Law

A person commits theft under Texas law if the person “unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.” (Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 31.03.) In plain English, this means that you commit theft in the state of Texas when you take something that doesn't belong to you, without consent or any other legal justification for doing so, and at the time of the offense you have no intention of giving the property back to its rightful owner.  

Classification and Penalties for Theft in Texas

Like the majority of states, Texas classifies its theft offenses according to the value of the stolen property or services -- and in some instances, by the type of property that is taken. Let’s start by taking a closer look at each level of theft offense under Texas law, starting with Class C misdemeanor theft (or petty theft) which is the lowest level of theft in Texas.

Class C Misdemeanor Theft

Theft is a class C misdemeanor in Texas if the value of the property or services stolen is less than $50. (Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 31.03(e)(1)(A).) The punishment for a class C misdemeanor in Texas is a fine of no more than $500, and does not involve any jail time. (§ 12.23.) 

Class B Misdemeanor Theft

Theft is a class B misdemeanor in Texas if the value of the property or services stolen is $50 or more but less than $500, or if the property stolen is a driver's license or other identification card. (§ 31.03(e)(2).) The punishment for a class B misdemeanor in Texas is a sentence of confinement in jail for a term of not more than 180 days a fine of not more than $2,000, or both. (§ 12.22.)

Class A Misdemeanor Theft

Theft is a class A misdemeanor in Texas if the value of the property or services stolen is $500 or more but less than $1,500. (§ 31.03(e)(3).) The punishment for a class A misdemeanor in Texas is a sentence of confinement in jail for a term of no more than one year, a fine of not more than $4,000, or both. (§ 12.21.)   

State Jail Felony Theft

Theft is a state jail felony in Texas if the value of the property or services stolen is $1,500 or more but less than $20,000, or if the property is of a specific type, such as a firearm or certain livestock valued at less than $20,000. (§ 31.03(e)(4).) The punishment for a state jail felony in Texas is incarceration ranging from 180 days to two years of in a state jail, plus a fine of no more than $10.000. (§ 12.35.) 

Felony of the Third Degree Theft

Theft is a felony of the third degree in Texas if the value of the property or services stolen is $20,000 or more but less than $100,000, or of the property is of a specific type, such as certain livestock valued at less than $100,000. (§ 31.03(e)(5).) The punishment for a felony of the third degree in Texas is incarceration ranging from two to ten years of imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and a fine of no more than $10.000. (§ 12.34.) 

Felony of the Second Degree Theft

Theft is a felony of the second degree in Texas if the value of the property or services stolen is $100,000 or more but less than $200,000. (§ 31.03(e)(6).) The punishment for a felony of the second degree in Texas is two to 20 years of imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and a fine of not more than $10.000. (§ 12.33.)  

Felony of the First Degree Theft

Theft is a felony of the first degree in Texas if the value of the property or services stolen is $200,000 or more. (§ 31.03(e)(7).) The punishment for a felony of the first degree in Texas is five to 99 years of imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and a fine of no more than $10.000. (§ 12.32.)

Civil Penalties for Theft in Texas

In addition to criminal penalties, a person who commits theft (including shoplifting) in the state of Texas may be civilly liable to the theft victim under the Texas Theft Liability Act. The theft victim (i.e. the store owner in a shoplifting case) may recover a monetary award that includes:

  • actual damages caused by the theft (such as the retail value of the item if not returned in sellable condition), and
  • a civil penalty of no more than $1,000.

The parent or legal guardian of a minor who commits theft also may be civilly liable under the Texas Theft Liability Act, but monetary recovery is limited to the actual damages caused by the theft, with a cap of $5,000, and no civil penalty is available. (§ 134.005.)

Effect of Prior Convictions on Current Theft Charge in Texas

If a person has one prior conviction for any level of theft, any theft that the person later commits in Texas, involving property or services valued at less than $50, will become a Class B misdemeanor rather than a Class C misdemeanor. (§ 31.03(e)(2)(B).)

If a person has two or more prior convictions for any level of theft, any theft that the person later commits in Texas, involving property or services valued at less than $1,500, will become a state jail felony rather than a Class B or Class A misdemeanor. (§ 31.03(e)(4)(D).)

If you've been charged with a theft crime, it's important that you seek legal counsel from an attorney with experience in your area. Local courts, judges, district attorneys and even local law enforcement have a big impact in how the law is interpreted and enforced in a given area.

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