Fraud and Theft Charges
Theft charges are significant not only in terms of potential punishment, but also in regard to what a theft charge conviction can do to your future employment prospects. In Texas, theft is considered to be a crime of “moral turpitude,” meaning a theft conviction is thought by many to represent someone who is dishonest and untrustworthy. You cannot afford to have a theft conviction on your record.
FACTORS IN THEFT CASES
The single most important thing when you have been charged with theft is to prevent the charge from becoming a conviction. Some people believe that theft charges are relatively open-and-shut cases; this is not so. Theft, in short, requires that a person take property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property, and without consent. Thus, consent is a defense to theft. What level of offense a theft charge is depends on several factors including who the property is taken from, who takes the property, how the property is taken, and the value of the property taken.
A person commits the offense of theft if the person appropriates property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property without the owner’s effective consent. This includes everything from shoplifting, to simply taking property from another person without the owner’s consent. What level of offense theft is depends on the value of the property taken or pecuniary loss. Theft of less than $100 is a Class C offense; theft of $100 to $749.99 is a Class B misdemeanor; theft of $750 to $2,499.99 is a Class A misdemeanor; theft of $2,500 to $29,999.99 is a state jail felony; and so on. If a person is placed on probation for, or convicted of theft, the person can be ordered to pay restitution (i.e., to reimburse the owner for the property taken.)
FELONY FRAUD CHARGES – FRAUDULENT USE OR POSSESSION OF IDENTIFYING INFORMATION & CREDIT CARD ABUSE
While fraud is theft insofar as it involves the taking of property from another, offenses involving fraud are distinct at a basic level in that they involve some degree misrepresentation. Credit Card Abuse requires that a person, with intent to obtain a benefit, fraudulently uses a credit or debit card that is not issued to the person or without the effective consent of the owner. Credit Card Abuse is a felony level offense.
Fraudulent Use or Possession of Identifying Information has been committed where a person, with the intent to harm or defraud another, obtains (gets), possesses, transfers, or uses an item of identifying information of another without the person’s consent, or without legal authorization. “Identifying information” includes items like a person’s social security number or checkbook. Fraudulent Use or Possession of Identifying Information is a felony level offense.
DIVERSIONARY PROGRAMS FOR FIRST-TIME OFFENDERS
Keeping a theft conviction off your record is critical. Denton County has certain first-offender programs that can prevent a theft charge and other offense from becoming a permanent blemish on your record. These programs prevent you from having to plead to a theft charge (and thus, from being convicted of a theft charge), and ultimately result in your eligibility to have all record of your arrest for theft expunged from your record. Because you are asked to give up certain constitutional rights in order to participate in diversionary programs like pretrial diversion, you are required to be represented by counsel.