For the average person in Houston, stealing is stealing. However, if the police arrest you for stealing something in Texas, they will charge you with theft, robbery or burglary. These are all defined differently under the law and the penalties can vary quite widely. If you are facing any of these charges, you need to contact a criminal defense attorney in Houston, TX for assistance. In the interim, let’s define these terms and look at the differences between them.
Texas Theft Laws Explained by a Houston Criminal Lawyer
Theft refers to an action which involves unlawfully acquiring someone else’s property with the intent to deprive them of it. This includes removing someone’s property without consent and stealing property which was previously stolen. Theft is what most people generally consider stealing.
It is important to note that there are different degrees of theft in Houston and elsewhere in Texas. If you are accused of stealing something valued at less than $50, this is a Class C misdemeanor. You may have to pay a fine of up to $500. However, if you are accused of stealing something worth $200,000 or more, you’re looking at a first-degree felony. This punishable by between 5 and 99 years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000. Penalties can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the crime.
Burglary vs Robbery: What a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Has to Say
Burglary refers to entering a home or another building without consent to commit theft, assault or a felony. You can face a burglary charge even if you didn’t actually steal anything. To be found guilty of burglary under Texas Penal Code § 30.02, you must:
- Unlawfully enter someone’s property
- Enter the property with intent to commit a crime
You don’t need to use force to enter the building to face a burglary charge. You don’t even need to put your entire body into the building. If you opened someone’s window from outside and reached in to grab their wallet off a table, this can constitute burglary.
Burglary is a very serious charge and you could end up facing a second-degree felony. This means you could spend between two and 20 years in prison and face a fine of up to $10,000.
Burglary does not include a threat of violence or actual violence against the victim. In most cases, the victim is not even present when the act occurs. These factors are what separate burglary from robbery and what makes robbery the more serious offense.
Robbery is when you intentionally, recklessly or knowingly harm or threaten to harm someone while stealing. Even a verbal or perceived threat is enough to cause you to be charged with robbery. This offense is essentially theft using fear or physical force. Displaying a weapon or threatening to shoot a cashier if they don’t hand over the cash counts as robbery. It can result in a second-degree felony charge.
You can only be convicted of robbery if:
- You deprive someone of their property
- The property was in their immediate control
- You threaten to use force against the victim or injure them
You don’t have to unlawfully enter a building to be charged with robbery. This is another key difference between burglary and robbery.
Penalties for Robbery and Burglary in Texas
The punishments for burglary and robbery are similar. However, they vary depending on the circumstances. As noted earlier, robbery is generally a second-degree felony. However, certain aggravating factors can cause the charge to be elevated to a first-degree felony. If you are found guilty of aggravated robbery, the penalty would be more severe.
Burglary is usually a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine. However, it can be a second-degree felony if you entered a home. If the burglary was committed in a home with the intent to commit a felony other than theft, it could become a first-degree felony. This is punishable by up to 99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Contact a Lawyer at Eddington & Worley to Discuss Your Case Today
If the police charge you with theft, burglary or robbery, you need a criminal defense lawyer in Houston. If you get convicted, the consequences can be serious. You can lose your freedom and thousands of dollars and employers are reluctant to hire people found guilty of theft. You need a lawyer who will fight for your rights and ensure you get the best possible outcome. Contact us today and set up a consultation.