Sexual Offenses

Sec. 21.01. DEFINITIONS. In this chapter:

(1) “Deviate sexual intercourse” means:

(A) any contact between any part of the genitals of one person and the mouth or anus of another person; or
(B) the penetration of the genitals or the anus of another person with an object.

(2) “Sexual contact” means, except as provided by Section 21.11, any touching of the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of another person with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.
(3) “Sexual intercourse” means any penetration or the female sex organ by the male sex organ.
(4) “Spouse” means a person to whom a person is legally married under Subtitle A, Title 1, Family Code, or a comparable law of another jurisdiction.

Sec. 21.02. CONTINUOUS SEXUAL ABUSE OF YOUNG CHILD OR CHILDREN.

(a) In this section, “child” has the meaning assigned by Section 22.011(c).
(b) A person commits an offense if:

(1) during a period that is 30 or more days in duration, the person commits two or more acts of sexual abuse, regardless of whether the acts of sexual abuse are committed against one or more victims; and
(2) at the time of the commission of each of the acts of sexual abuse, the actor is 17 years of age or older and the victim is a child younger than 14 years of age.

(c) For purposes of this section, “act of sexual abuse” means any act that is a violation of one or more of the following penal laws:

(1) aggravated kidnapping under Section 20.04 (a) (4), if the actor committed the offense with the intent to violate or abuse the victim sexually;
(2) indecency with a child under Section 21.11 (a) (1), if the actor committed the offense in a manner other than by touching, including touching through clothing, the breast of a child;
(3) sexual assault under Section 22.011;
(4) aggravated sexual assault under Section 22.021;
(5) burglary under Section 30.02, if the offense is punishable under Subsection (d) of that section and the actor committed the offense with the intent to commit an offense listed in Subdivisions (1)-(4);
(6) sexual performance by a child under Section 43.25;
(7) trafficking of persons under Section 20A.02 (a) (7) or (8); and
(8) compelling prostitution under Section 43.05(a) (2).

(d) If a jury is the trier of fact, members of the jury are not required to agree unanimously on which specific acts of sexual abuse were committed by the defendant or the exact date when those acts were committed. The jury must agree unanimously that the defendant, during a period that is 30 or more days in duration, committed two or more acts of sexual abuse.
(e) A defendant may not be convicted in the same criminal action of an offense listed under Subsection (c) the victim of which is the same victim as a victim of the offense alleged under Subsection (b) unless the offense listed in Subsection (c):

(1) is charged in the alternative;
(2) occurred outside the period in which the offense alleged under Subsection (b) was committed; or
(3) is considered by the trier of fact to be a lesser included offense of the offense alleged under Subsection (b).

(f) A defendant may not be charged with more than one count under Subsection (b) if all of the specific acts of sexual abuse that are alleged to have been committed are alleged to have been committed against a single victim.
(g) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the actor:

(1) was not more than five years older than:

(A) the victim of the offense, if the offense is alleged to have been committed against only one victim; or
(B) the youngest victim of the offense, if the offense is alleged to have been committed against more than one victim;

(2) did not use duress, force, or a threat against a victim at the time of the commission of any of the acts of sexual abuse alleged as an element of the offense; and
(3) at the time of the commission of any of the acts of sexual abuse alleged as an element of the offense:

(A) was not required under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, to register for life as a sex offender; or
(B) was not a person who under Chapter 62 had a reportable conviction or adjudication for an offense under this section or an act of sexual abuse as described by Subsection (c).

(h) An offense under this section is a felony of the first degree, punishable by imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for life, or for any term of not more than 99 years or less than 25 years.

Sec. 21.06. HOMOSEXUAL CONDUCT.

(a) A person commits an offense if he engages in deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.
(b) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

Sec. 21.07. PUBLIC LEWDNESS.

(a) A person commits an offense if he knowingly engages in any of the following acts in a public place or, if not in a public place, he is reckless about whether another is present who will be offended or alarmed by his:

(1) act of sexual intercourse;
(2) act of deviate sexual intercourse;
(3) act of sexual contact; or
(4) act involving contact between the person’s mouth or genitals and the anus or genitals of an animal or fowl.

(b) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.

Section 21.08. INDDECENT EXPOSURE.

(a) A person commits an offense if he exposes his anus or any part of his genitals with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, and he is reckless about whether another is present who will be offended or alarmed by his act.
(b) An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor.

Sec. 21.11. INDECENCY WITH A CHILD.

(a) A person commits an offense if, with a child younger than 17 years of age, whether the child is of the same or opposite sex, the person:

(1) engages in sexual contact with the child or causes the child to engage in sexual contact; or
(2) with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person:

(A) exposes the person’s anus or any part of the person’s genitals, knowing the child is present; or
(B) causes the child to expose the child’s anus or any part of the child’s genitals.

(b) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the actor:

(1) was not more than three years older than the victim and of the opposite sex;
(2) did not use duress, force, or a threat against the victim at the time of the offense; and
(3) at the time of the offense:

(A) was not required under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, to register for life as a sex offender; or
(B) was not a person who under Chapter 62 had a reportable conviction or adjudication for an offense under this section.

(b-1) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the actor was the spouse of the child at the time of the offense.
(c) In this section, “sexual contact” means the following acts, if committed with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person:

(1) any touching by a person, including touching through clothing, of the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of a child; or
(2) any touching of any part of the body of a child, including touching through clothing, with the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of a person.

(d) An offense under Subsection (a)(1) is a felony of the second degree and an offense under Subsection (a)(2) is a felony of the third degree.

Sec. 21.12. IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATOR AND STUDENT.

(a) An employee of a public or private primary or secondary school commits an offense if the employee:

(1) engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school at which the employee works;
(2) holds a certificate or permit issued as provided by Subchapter B, Chapter 21, Education Code, or is a person who is required to be licensed by a state agency as provided by Section 21.003(b), Education Code, and engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person the employee knows is:

(A) enrolled in a public primary or secondary school in the same school district as the school at which the employee works; or
(B) a student participant in an educational activity that is sponsored by a school district or a public or private primary or secondary school, if:

(i) students enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school are the primary participants in the activity; and
(ii) the employee provides education services to those participants; or

(3) engages in conduct described by Section 33.021, with a person described by Subdivision (1), or a person the employee knows is a person described by Subdivision (2)(A) or (B), regardless of the age of that person.

(b) An offense under this section is a felony of the second degree.
(b-1) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that:

(1) the actor was the spouse of the enrolled person at the time of the offense; or
(2) the actor was not more than three years older than the enrolled person and, at the time of the offense, the actor and the enrolled person were in a relationship that began before the actor’s employment at a public or private primary or secondary school.

(c) If conduct constituting an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under another section of this code, the actor may be prosecuted under either section or both sections.
(d) The name of a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school and involved in an improper relationship with an educator as provided by Subsection (a) may not be released to the public and is not public information under Chapter 552, Government Code.

Sec. 21.15. INVASIVE VISUAL RECORDING.

(a) In this section:

(1) “Female breast” means any portion of the female breast below the top of the areola.
(2) “Intimate area” means the naked or clothed genitals, pubic area, anus, buttocks, or female breast of a person.
(3) “Changing room” means a room or portioned area provided for or primarily used for the changing of clothing and includes dressing rooms, locker rooms, and swimwear changing areas.
(4) “Promote” has the meaning assigned by Section 43.21.

(b) A person commits an offense if, without the other person’s consent and with intent to invade the privacy of the other person, the person:

(1) photographs or by videotape or other electronic means records, broadcasts, or transmits a visual image of an intimate area of another person if the other person has a reasonable expectation that the intimate area is not subject to public view;
(2) photographs or by videotape or other electronic means records, broadcasts, or transmits a visual image of another in a bathroom or changing room; or
(3) knowing the character and content of the photograph, recording, broadcast, or transmission, promotes a photograph, recording, broadcast, or transmission described by Subdivision (1) or (2).

(c) An offense under this section is a state jail felony.
(d) If conduct that constitutes an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under any other law, the actor may be prosecuted under this section or the other law.
(e) For purposes of Subsection (b)(2), a sign or signs posted indicating that the person is being photographed or that a visual image of the person is being recorded, broadcast, or transmitted is not sufficient to establish the person’s consent under that subdivision.

Sec. 21.16. VOYEURISM

(a) A person commits an offense if the person, with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of the actor, observes another person without the other person’s consent while the other person is in a dwelling or structure in which the other person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
(b) Except as provided by Subsection (c) or (d), an offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.
(c) An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the actor has previously been convicted two or more times of an offense under this section.
(d) An offense under this section is a state jail felony if the victim was a child younger than 14 years of age at the time of the offense.
(e) If conduct that constitutes an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under any other law, the actor may be prosecuted under this section, the other law, or both.

Sec. 21.16. UNLAWFUL DISCLOSURE OR PROMOTION OF INTIMATE VISUAL MATERIAL.

(a) In this section:

(1) “Intimate parts” means the naked genitals, pubic area, anus, buttocks, or female nipple of a person.
(2) “Promote” means to procure, manufacture, issue, sell, give, provide, lend, mail, deliver, transfer, transmit, publish, distribute, circulate, disseminate, present, exhibit, or advertise or to offer or agree to do any of the above.
(3) “Sexual conduct” means sexual contact, actual or simulated sexual intercourse, deviate sexual intercourse, sexual bestiality, masturbation, or sadomasochistic abuse.
(4) “Simulated” means the explicit depiction of sexual conduct that creates the appearance of actual sexual conduct and during which a person engaging in the conduct exhibits any uncovered portion of the breasts, genitals, or buttocks.
(5) “Visual material” means:

(A) any film, photograph, videotape, negative, or slide or any photographic reproduction that contains or incorporates in any manner any film, photograph, videotape, negative, or slide; or
(B) any disk, diskette, or other physical medium that allows an image to be displayed on a computer or other video screen and any image transmitted to a computer or other video screen by telephone line, cable, satellite transmission, or other method.

(b) A person commits an offense if:

(1) without the effective consent of the depicted person, the person intentionally discloses visual material depicting another person with the person’s intimate parts exposed or engaged in sexual conduct;
(2) the visual material was obtained by the person or created under circumstances in which the depicted person had a reasonable expectation that the visual material would remain private;
(3) the disclosure of the visual material causes harm to the depicted person; and
(4) the disclosure of the visual material reveals the identity of the depicted person in any manner, including through:

(A) any accompanying or subsequent information or material related to the visual material; or
(B) information or material provided by a third party in response to the disclosure of the visual material.

(c) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally threatens to disclose, without the consent of the depicted person, visual material depicting another person with the person’s intimate parts exposed or engaged in sexual conduct and the actor makes the threat to obtain a benefit:

(1) in return for not making the disclosure; or
(2) in connection with the threatened disclosure.

(d) A person commits an offense if, knowing the character and content of the visual material, the person promotes visual material described by Subsection (b) on an Internet website or other forum for publication that is owned or operated by the person.
(e) It is not a defense to prosecution under this section that the depicted person:

(1) created or consented to the creation of the visual material; or
(2) voluntarily transmitted the visual material to the actor.

(f) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under Subsection (b) or (d) that:

(1) the disclosure or promotion is made in the course of:

(A) lawful and common practices of law enforcement or medical treatment;
(B) reporting unlawful activity; or
(C) a legal proceeding, if the disclosure or promotion is permitted or required by law;

(2) the disclosure or promotion consists of visual material depicting in a public or commercial setting only a person’s voluntary exposure of:

(A) the person’s intimate parts; or
(B) the person engaging in sexual conduct; or

(3) the actor is an interactive computer service, as defined by 47 U.S.C. Section 230, and the disclosure or promotion consists of visual material provided by another person.

(g) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.
(h) If conduct that constitutes an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under another law, the actor may be prosecuted under this section, the other law, or both.

Frequently Asked Question's

Assault Family Violence

1. What’s the difference between “domestic violence” and “family violence”?

Not much. “Domestic violence” commonly refers to violence between adults who are married, but “family violence” as defined in the Texas Family Code is broader and includes individuals who are:
  • Related by blood or marriage
  • Current and/or former spouses
  • Parents of the same child
  • Foster parents and children
It doesn’t matter for the above groups whether they live together or not. But the definition also includes:
  • Roommates
  • Individuals who are or were in a dating relationship

2. What are the different kinds of charges for family violence cases?

Several different offenses can fall under the “family violence banner,” but the most common cases are:
  • Assault (offensive touching, sometimes a reduction from a higher charge) – Class C Misdemeanor, $0 to $500 fine
  • Assault Family Violence – Class A Misdemeanor, 0 to 365 days jail and/or up to $4,000 fine
  • Assault Family Violence with prior FV conviction – 3rd and/or up to $10,000 fine
  • Continuous Family Violence (2 or more incidents alleged in one year) – 3rd to 10 years prison and/or up to $10,000 fine
  • Aggravated Assault causing Serious Bodily Injury with Deadly Weapon with Family Violence
  • 1st Degree Felony, 5 to 99 years or life in prison and/or up to $10,000 fine

3. Does it matter if it was a punch or “just a push”?

Yes and no. Bodily injury means any “physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.” It can be as serious as a stab or gunshot wound, or as simple as pulling someone’s hair. The issue is “did it hurt?” or “did it cause pain?” Some felony offenses allege “serious bodily injury,” meaning “injury that creates a substantial risk of death, serious permanent disfigurement, or [extended] loss or impairment of the function of” part of the body. The more serious the injury, the higher level the offense will be charged. And if the officers aren’t sure, they will usually err on the side of charging the higher offense.

4. What if I’ve been convicted of a case with a finding of Family Violence case before?

If you’ve already been convicted once before of a case with a finding of family violence, then the second arrest will be charged as a 3rd Degree Felony. A 3rd Degree Felony is punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. If the State can’t prove the enhancement (the prior case), they may still prosecute the case as a lower offense, usually a Class Assault Family Violence Misdemeanor.

5. I was issued an Emergency Protective Order. What does that mean?

An EPO can be issued on request from a police officer, an alleged “victim”, a guardian, or an attorney for the State. It may require you to not commit family violence or assault, communicate in a harassing or threatening manner, or go near a particular residence. An EPO can be effective for anywhere from 31 to 91 days, and it can be “replaced” upon request by a complainant with a standard Protective Order.

6. What happens if the complaining party doesn’t want to prosecute?

If the person who is alleged as the “victim” doesn’t want to prosecute, then he or she can file an Affidavit of Non-Prosecution with the District Attorney’s office. This can be done through an attorney or, sometimes, DA’s offices have their own protocol. This does not mean the case will dismissed – if the DAs feels they should go forward with the case or even if they can prove it without his or her testimony, they may still prosecute the case. But filing an ANP doesn’t hurt.

7. Can I still own a gun once if I plead guilty to Assault Family Violence?

No. If you are convicted of a Family Violence offense, like Assault Family Violence, you forfeit your rights to ever possess or transport a firearm or ammunition under federal law. If you violate the law, you will be subject to penalties under federal – not state – law.

Drug Offenses

1. What’s the difference between “possession” and “distribute” or “manufacture”?

“Possession” is the basic charge for any drug offense, whether it is marijuana or methamphetamine.  Proving possession requires a showing of “actual care, custody, control, or management.” To “distribute,” a person must deliver a drug in some way other than “administering or dispensing” it. But “manufacture” is the broadest definition of all, including the creation and altering of any drug (other than marijuana), by chemical synthesis and/or extracting natural substances. It can also include the packaging and labeling of a drug.

2. What’s a “penalty group” and how does it affect how I’m charged?

The legislature has divided controlled substances into 4 penalty groups, and each one has its own punishment range, depending on whether the offense is possession or manufacture and distribution, the amount of the substance, and generally based on the dangerousness of the drug itself. Some common drugs and their associated penalty groups are:
  • PG 1 – Methamphetamine, Cocaine, Heroin, Hydrocodone (over 300 mg)
  • PG 2 – Ecstasy, PCP
  • PG 3 -  Valium, Xanax, Ritalin, Hydrocodone (under 300 mg)
  • PG 4 – Morphine, Buprenorphine

3. How will the amount affect how I’m charged?

Charges are divided up by the amount involved, based on the penalty group. For example,  marijuana possession is charged as:
  • Less than 2 oz – class B misdemeanor
  • 2 to 4 oz – class A misdemeanor
  • 4 oz to 5 lbs – 3rd degree felony
  • 5 lbs to 2000 lbs – 2nd degree felony
  • Over 2000 lbs – 1st degree felony
For Penalty Groups 1 and 2 –
  • Less than 1 gr – state jail felony
  • 1 to 4 grams – 3rd degree felony
  • 4 to 200 grams (or 4 to 400 grams for PG2) – 2nd degree felony
  • 200 or more grams (or over 400 grams for PG2) – 1st degree felony

4. What is SAFP?

SAFP stands for the Substance Abuse Felony Punishment program.  This is an intense treatment program for probationers and parolees who need substance abuse treatment.   It includes an “in-prison” phase consisting of orientation, treatment, and then re-entry and relapse prevention.  Then there is a 3 month stay at a transitional treatment center, similar to a half-way house, followed by 9 months of outpatient treatment.  The program can last up to 30 months, depending on successful progress towards recovery and sobriety.  SAFP is perhaps the most intense drug treatment program available, but it is also considered one of the most effective.

DWI

1. I was arrested for DWI. What happens next?

Please remember that you have only FIFTEEN DAYS from the date of arrest to request a hearing on the potential suspension of your driver's license. If you do not request a hearing your license will be automatically suspended 40-days from the date of the arrest. In a typical case, the arresting police agency will send your arrest report to the District Attorney’s Office (“DA”). The DA will then file the formal charge against you in one our six County Courts at Law and you will receive a notice to appear. Generally, there is a four to six week time lapse between the time of your arrest and your fist court appearance.  The period between the arrest and the filing may be much longer in blood draw cases where lab results are pending.

2. How long will it take to resolve the charge against me?

The length of time it takes to resolve a DWI charge will vary. Each case is as unique as a snowflake based on the underlying facts as well as your goals and the prosecutor’s stance on your particular case.  Cases can be resolved as quickly as three months or as long as a year.

3. I failed or refused to submit to a breath or blood test. Is my driver's license automatically suspended?

No. If you request hearing through the Administrative License Revocation (ALR) process within fifteen days of your arrest, your license will remain valid until such time as a hearing takes place. We will personally handle all aspects of the ALR process on your behalf.  At the hearing the State must prove certain facts. If they fail to do so, your license will not be suspended.

4. WHY REQUEST AN ALR HEARING?

The ALR hearing will likely be the only opportunity you have to question the police officer that arrested you under oath prior to trial. If a hearing is set our attorneys will compel the State's lawyers to turn over all the evidence they intend to use against you at the hearing. This will include all police reports and frequently breath or blood test results. Also, unless strategy suggests otherwise, our attorneys will require the presence of the arresting officer at your hearing. The ALR hearing is a tremendous opportunity to test the strength of the State's case against you and to look for weaknesses in their case. At the ALR hearing we will be looking for ways to challenge all aspects of the state's case in an effort to maintain your right to drive. By way of example only:
  • Did the police stop your vehicle in violation of the law?
  • Did the police properly perform the HGN test according to their training?
  • Did the police properly administer the other Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in accordance with their training and the standards of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration?
  • Do the recorded police observations concerning alleged intoxication rise to the level of probable cause?
  • Was there a valid refusal of a breath or blood test?
  • Did the police comply with the observation period prior to requesting a breath test?
  • Was discovery provided in a timely manner by the State's lawyers?
  • In blood test cases, is there proof that shows that the blood test was taken in a sanitary place, and by a qualified person?
  • In a Chapter 524 case, is there admissible, sufficient proof of operation?
  • Did the police provide any erroneous or extra statutory advice concerning the consequences of refusing or submitting to a breath test.
If you prevail at the ALR hearing the civil case is dismissed and you WILL RETAIN YOUR RIGHT TO DRIVE.

5. What happens if my license is suspended?

If your license is suspended you will likely be able to petition the court for an Occupational Driver's License (ODL). An ODL is a restricted driver's license that will allow you to drive up to twelve hours a day.

6. Why do I need an attorney who focuses his practice on DWI defense?

Defending DWI cases properly requires intricate knowledge of the applicable law; the science involved in breath, and the procedure used by the police to obtain and evaluate evidence in a DWI case. Most attorneys, even those who practice criminal law, do not focus on DWI defense. An experienced DWI attorney may see defenses that may be overlooked by some other attorney. In selecting a DWI attorney, just a few questions to consider are:
  • Does the attorney have experience and success trying DWI cases?
  • Can the attorney explain in clear terms the basic operation of the breath testing device known as the Intoxilyzer 5000?
  • Does the attorney remain current on DWI focused continuing legal education?
  • What specific strategy does the attorney plan to advance in your ALR hearing?
  • Does the attorney try blood draw cases to a jury?

7. I refused to submit to the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, am I in trouble?

No. You have a lawful right to refuse to submit to any field sobriety test, including the One Leg Stand, the Walk and Turn, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, and the Preliminary Breath Test. You may also refuse to submit to the Breath Test, however your refusal may trigger certain consequences for your driver's license.

8. I am guilty, do I still need a lawyer?

The short answer is yes. Even a first offense DWI carries a potential punishment range of up to one hundred eighty days in the County Jail and up to a $2,000 fine. Even if you are sure that you are factually "guilty" you should still seriously consider an experienced DWI lawyer who knows the law, the science, and the ins and outs of the court system. First and foremost, we will always force the State's Attorney's to turn over ALL of the evidence to me. The evidence should include, at a minimum, all of the police generated documents, the DVD or video of both the roadside and Intoxilyzer room, and witness statements, the Intoxilyzer breath testing slip, and a lab report in blood test cases. Only when all of the evidence is available can you make intelligent decision about how to proceed. Even if you feel that you were intoxicated, and experienced DWI attorney should be looking at issues such as:
  • How do you look on video?
  • Was the breath or blood evidence obtained lawfully?
  • Was the breath or blood evidence obtained in such a way that its analytical reliability or validity may be compromised?
  • Was the stop of your car by police lawful?
  • Did the police officer administer the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests correctly?
  • Does the police report contain internal contradictions, or is it contradicted by the video?
  • Will the State be able to locate and secure the attendance of the witnesses at trial?
So, even if you think you are guilty, do yourself a favor and hire an experienced DWI attorney who can analyze your case for weaknesses that may benefit you.

9. Am I able to obtain a Deferred Adjudication for a Driving While Intoxicated Charge?

Not under the current state of the law. However legislation was introduced recently introduced which would authorize people charged with a first driving while intoxicated case in Texas to receive deferred adjudication.  The legislation failed, however it may be raised again at a future date in the Legislature. In a deferred adjudication situation, no judicial finding of guilt is made and and the end of the deferral period the case is dismissed.

10. When would I need SR-22 Insurance?

Ordinarily, SR-22 insurance will be required after a DWI conviction or when a person needs an occupational driver's license due to a driver's license suspension. Frequently the suspension is the result of a DWI conviction or an ALR suspension. You may obtain SR-22 insurance by contacting your own insurance company or by contacting another agency. Our office regularly recommends two separate agencies that have provided excellent service to our clients.

Theft Laws

1. I was arrested for Theft, what happens next?

The State typically files a criminal case within 1-2 months. Theft cases can range from a Class C Misdemeanor all the way to a First Degree Felony. The level of offense will depend on the value of what is alleged to have been stolen. Misdemeanor Theft is the most common form of Theft prosecuted in Collin County. Class C Theft (property less than $50), Class B Theft (property $50 - $500); Class A Theft (property $500 - $1,500). Felony Theft involves property valued at $1,500 or more.

2. What are the possible punishments for Misdemeanor Theft?

Potential punishment increases with each degree of theft:
  • Class C: $0 - $500 fine
  • Class B : 0 days  – 180 days in jail and/or $0 - $2,000 fine
  • Class A: 0 days – 1 year in jail and/or $0 - $4,000 fine
The vast majority of Theft cases resolved by a plea or finding of guilt result in some form of probation. Misdemeanor probation can last up to 24 months and can include a wide array of probation terms and conditions, including payment of hefty fines and fees.

3. How will a Theft case affect my record?

Theft is a crime of moral turpitude. If you are convicted of a theft offense, it will remain on your record for life. Unlike some criminal offenses, a Theft conviction will usually raise the concern or disapproval of a current or potential employer.

4. Is there a way to keep a Theft case off my record

There are a few of ways to keep a Theft off your record. The likelihood of doing this will depend upon a variety of factors, including the circumstances of the case and the person who is accused of committing Theft. 

5. What happens at my first court appearance?

The first appearance is more like a work session than anything else. It is an opportunity for your attorney to meet with the prosecutor and discuss the case. Typically, the prosecutor will have a police report, video, and witness statements to share with your attorney along with an initial recommendation for a punishment that the you can receive in exchange for a guilty plea. The first appearance date is usually concluded by selecting another appearance date.

6. What evidence is there that I stole something?

In a shoplifting case, there is usually one or more store employee who claim to have seen something take place inside the store. Frequently, a shoplifting case will involve camera footage shot from one or more angles. Depending upon the circumstances, the police may have conducted further investigation when they arrived, but they don’t always. The State does not need a police officer to testify to prove their case.

7. A store employee was harassing and humiliating to me, did he violate my rights?

Many places of business employ a loss prevention department. These are people who can be dressed up like officers or in plain clothes secretly watching customers. The law allows these people to use limited force to prevent shoplifting. They may grab you, detain you, and question you until the police come. They are not required to play by the same rules that police do because the law considers them to be private, as opposed to government, entities… therefore their thoughtless conduct rarely negates an arrest – but judges and juries have little tolerance for such conduct by store employees and may give them little credibility as witnesses.

8. Why am I in trouble when my friend did it?

The law allows the State to try and put you on the hook for the conduct of another person. Specifically, the law says “A person is criminally responsible for an offense committed by the conduct of another if, acting with the intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense, he solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the person to commit the offense.” However, mere presence alone will not make someone a party to the offense. In this type of case, the prosecution has the burden to show you did something to affirmatively aid the person committing the theft.  Mere presence alone is not enough.

9. How did they come up with a dollar amount greater than what was on the sticker?

The law also allows the State to try and prove a dollar amount that varies from the sticker price. Specifically, the law says that “the value of the property taken is the fair market value of that property at the time and place of the offense,” and “fair market value is . . . the amount the property would sell for in cash, giving a reasonable time for selling it.”  Merchants are aware of the statutory amounts, and it’s not uncommon for them to attempt to find creative ways to ‘pile-on’ the price.  This is a specific area a trained attorney knows to attack.

10. Is there a link between shoplifting and depression?

Studies have shown that there is a link between shoplifting and depression especially for middle-aged women. While this may not be a circumstance which leads to a jury finding someone not guilty, it is something to consider when talking about punishment.

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