Texas Misdemeanor and Felony Theft and Shoplifting Laws

Like most states, Texas classifies its theft offenses according to the value of the property or services stolen—and, in some cases, by the type of property involved in the theft.

A person commits theft under Texas law if the person “unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.” In plain English, this means you commit theft 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.

(Tex. Penal Code § 31.03 (2020).)

Defining Theft Under Texas Law

Texas’s general theft law covers a broad range of unlawful conduct, including embezzlement, extortion, swindling, and receiving stolen property. A person can steal personal property (such as a TV, car, or money in a bank account), real property (such as land or title to land), documents (such as paper money or stock certificates), and services (such as labor, accommodations, or utilities).

Other Theft-Related Crimes

In addition to theft of property and services, Texas statute identifies several other crimes relating to theft, including:

  • organized retail theft
  • theft of trade secrets
  • theft by check, and
  • cargo theft.

This article discusses the classifications and penalties for offenses that fall under the general theft statute. To learn more about specific theft offenses (such as those listed above), check out the Texas Penal Code or consult with an attorney.

(Tex. Penal Code §§ 31.03 and following (2020).)

Classification of Theft Offenses and Penalties in Texas

Like most 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 taken. Penalties range from a misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. In addition to fines and possible imprisonment, a judge can order an offender to pay restitution to the victim (for losses resulting from theft). Let’s take a closer look at different theft offenses in the state of Texas.

Class C Misdemeanor Theft

Theft is a class C misdemeanor if the value of the stolen property or services is less than $100. The punishment for a class C misdemeanor includes a fine up to $500 but does not involve any jail time.

Class B Misdemeanor Theft

Theft is a class B misdemeanor if:

  • the value of the stolen property or services is $100 or more but less than $750
  • the value of the stolen property is less than $100, and it’s the defendant’s second or subsequent theft offense, or
  • the stolen property is a driver's license or another identification card.

The punishment for a class B misdemeanor can include a fine of no more than $2,000, imprisonment for no more than 180 days, or both.

Class A Misdemeanor Theft

Theft is a class A misdemeanor if the value of the stolen property or services is $750 or more but less than $2,500. The punishment for a class A misdemeanor can include a fine of no more than $4,000, imprisonment for no more than one year, or both.

State Jail Felony Theft

Theft is a state jail felony if:

  • the stolen property or services is valued at $2,500 or more but less than $30,000
  • the value of the stolen property is less than $2,500, and it’s the defendant’s third or subsequent theft offense
  • the property is stolen from another person, a human corpse, or grave, or
  • the stolen property is a firearm, an election ballot, or certain livestock or metals.

The punishment for a state jail felony theft can include a fine of no more than $10,000, imprisonment ranging from 180 days to two years, or both. A state jail felony will bump up to a third-degree felony if the defendant used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the offense or had a previous felony conviction.

Third-Degree Felony Theft

Theft is a felony of the third degree if:

  • the value of the stolen property or services is $30,000 or more but less than $150,000
  • the stolen property is certain types of livestock valued at less than $150,000, or
  • the property is a controlled substance valued at less than $150,000 and was stolen from a commercial building where controlled substances are generally stored.

The punishment for a third-degree felony is a fine of no more than $10,000, imprisonment ranging from two to ten years, or both.

Second-Degree Felony Theft

Theft is a felony of the second degree if:

  • the value of the stolen property or services is $150,000 or more but less than $300,000, or
  • the stolen property is an ATM or its contents valued at less than $300,000.

The punishment for a second-degree felony is a fine of not more than $10,000, imprisonment ranging from two to 20 years, or both.

First-Degree Felony Theft

Theft is a felony of the first degree if the value of the stolen property or services is $300,000 or more. The punishment for a first-degree felony is a fine of not more than $10,000, imprisonment ranging from five to 99 years, or both.

Enhanced Theft Penalties

The penalty for a theft offense increases to the next offense level (for example, a third-degree felony goes up to second-degree felony) if any of the following are true:

  • the stolen property was under the control of a public servant
  • the stolen property was under the control of someone in a contract relationship the government
  • the owner of the property was a person age 65 or older or a nonprofit organization
  • the stolen property was under the control of a Medicare provider, or
  • in committing the offense, the offender caused the fire alarm to go off or prevented it from going off.

(Tex. Penal Code §§ 12.21 to 12.23, 12.32 to 12.35, 31.03, and 31.014 (2020).)

Retail Theft (Shoplifting) Under Texas Law

Retail theft (often called shoplifting) falls under the general theft laws, with criminal penalties based on the value of goods stolen (see above). An offender can also receive enhanced penalties for preventing or attempting to prevent a retail theft detector from going off or using a device that deactivates a retail theft detector. Finally, a person may be charged with a class A misdemeanor if they make or distribute a device that is used to deactivate a retail theft detector.

(Tex. Penal Code §§ 31.03, 31.15, and 31.16 (2020).)

Civil Penalties for Theft in Texas

A person who commits theft (including shoplifting) may be civilly liable to the theft victim on top of facing criminal penalties. Texas law allows for a criminal prosecution (brought by a government prosecutor) and a civil lawsuit (brought by the victim).

The theft victim (such as a store owner in a shoplifting case) can file a lawsuit in civil court to recover :

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

When the offender is a child, the parent or legal guardian will be liable for the civil damages. But statute limits the parent's liability to actual damages caused by the theft, with a cap of $5,000, and legal fees and costs (no civil penalty).

(Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §§ 134.003 and following (2020).)

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you've been charged with a theft crime, it's important to seek legal counsel from an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Local courts, judges, district attorneys, and even local law enforcement have a big impact on how the law is interpreted and enforced in a given area. Be sure to ask your attorney about the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. Theft charges can negatively affect future employment, ability to qualify for housing, and even immigration status.

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