Perhaps more so than in other kinds of cases, the number one goal in theft matters is usually keeping the crime off the defendant’s record. All kinds of theft, even Class C theft by check, is a crime of moral turpitude in Texas. Such a conviction can have serious lifelong ramifications. Moreover, the Public Accountancy Board, and a few others, consider deferred adjudication to be a conviction.
Depending on the type of theft, it is usually rather easy to dismiss the matter quietly.
Theft of Property/Possession of Stolen Property
Until recently, these cases were rather easy to defend. But the Legislature tightened up this portion of the Penal Code. For example, prosecutors once had to prove that the defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of the use of property. “Permanently” did not mean “forever,” but it did mean long-term. Now, that adverb is gone, so any deprivation is sufficient, however slight.
The “owner” requirement remains. Unfortunately, the owner is anyone with a superior right to possession. That could be a security guard or checkout clerk.
Variance could be an issue in theft cases. For example, the charging instruments may name the manager as the owner, but only the security guard is available to testify. If the prosecutor catches this error in time, the judge almost always allows a pleading amendment. But if not, the defendant could walk on a technicality.
Pawn shop owners and other such individuals have some immunity in possession of stolen property cases, but not very much.
Theft of Service
Legally, service providers can file 31.04 charges if the person fails to pay a bill within ten days of demand, keeps a rented vehicle more than ten days past the due date, or overstays a lease more than five days (three days if the property’s value is under $2,500).
Lack of proper notice is often a defense in these cases. The past-due or other notice must go out via registered or certified mail. That hardly ever happens.
Theft of Trade Secrets
“Corporate espionage” makes for very compelling theater, but these episodes do not happen much in real life.
Instead, most 31.05 cases involve departing employees who take information like recipes or design blueprints. They may not consider the information to be a trade secret, but lack of intent is not a defense. Prosecutors only must establish that the defendant knowingly took the information.
For purposes of this offense, a trade secret is “the whole or any part of any scientific or technical information, design, process, procedure, formula, or improvement that has value and that the owner has taken measures to prevent from becoming available to persons other than those selected by the owner to have access for limited purposes.” That’s a very broad definition, especially the “whole or any part” language.
Theft by Check (TBC)
Here again, the Legislature made some changes. Once upon a time, it was difficult to prove that the defendant intentionally wrote a bad check as opposed to mistakenly did so. Now, there are some presumptions in place. Nevertheless, if the case is a misdemeanor and the defendant makes restitution and attends a class, prosecutors normally dismiss these charges.
Petty theft cases are easy to prove and have long-term consequences. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Parker and Tarrant Counties, contact Herreth Law. We are available for private consultations 24/7/365.