In most states the theft statutes are fairly broad, covering many types of criminal conduct which involves the misuse of another person’s property. No matter the level of the theft crime you are charged with, one thing they all have in common is that property belonging to another was taken without their consent. The term property in this context, however, can also be broadly interpreted. For instance, under Texas law writing bad checks is also considered theft as are shoplifting, receiving stolen property, possessing stolen property, auto theft and a whole host of other thefts. The charges can range all the way from a class C misdemeanor—the equivalent of a traffic ticket—to a much more serious felony charge which could send you to prison for life. The level of the theft charges will be determined based on a number of factors including the item which was supposedly taken, whether force was used to take the item and whether or not you entered the home of another.
The Consequences of a Theft Conviction
Even a theft conviction at the minor end of the spectrum can still have a shattering effect on your life. You should never make the error of thinking a misdemeanor theft charge is not a very serious matter. Theft convictions are considered to be crimes of “moral turpitude,” meaning they are the sort of crime which reflects the character of a person. No matter what level of theft charges you are facing, a conviction could mean a permanent blot on your record, even if you are given probation rather than jail time. In today’s technological world, almost all employers will conduct a background check and a conviction for theft—whether misdemeanor or felony—can make it very difficult for you to obtain employment for the remainder of your life.
Felony theft charges can not only affect your future employment, but can also land you in prison for up to twenty years should you be convicted of entering another’s home in order to steal something. If you used force to take something such as property or cash it will likely be charged as a felony, and if you used a weapon you may be charged with aggravated robbery. A conviction for aggravated robbery could result in a lifetime prison sentence. As you can see, the penalties for the entire range of theft charges are extremely serious and potentially life-altering.
The Importance of Getting Experienced Legal Counsel
There is no substitute for hiring the most experienced criminal defense attorney you can to represent you and make sure your rights are fully protected. A knowledgeable attorney knows how to cover all the bases as soon as possible, giving you a solid defense. Your attorney will interview potential witnesses and will conduct interviews with the alleged victim. He will make early contact with the prosecutor, hopefully before formal charges have been filed. He will walk you through the bail requirements and prepare the necessary motions to have you released on your own recognizance.
Of course your attorney will seek to have the case dismissed, but if that is not possible he will ensure you have the most aggressive trial defense possible. Whatever you do, don’t dismiss your theft charges as insignificant or take them lightly. These are extremely serious charges, so speak with an attorney as soon as possible after you have been charged or feel you are about to be charged. Hiring an attorney is the best way to protect your future and allow you to return to your life without serious and far-reaching consequences. Don’t wait—call now.