The State of Texas doesn’t allow you to take someone else’s property without his or her consent and for the purpose of depriving the owner of the property. If you “hotwire” a car to flee from the scene of a previous crime and abandon it afterward, you have committed the crime of “motor vehicle theft.” If you receive property that has been stolen, you are also guilty of theft. According to Texas Law, anyone who buys a car without transferring the title has been presumed to know that the car was stolen and can be convicted of theft of a motor vehicle.
Types of Motor Vehicle Theft in the State of Texas
Under Texas Law, the type of theft being committed is classified according to the value and nature of the property that has been stolen. So the more valuable it is, the more severe the penalties will be. The prosecutor may either use the “fair market value” or “replacement value” of the property, depending on the circumstances. Here are some the common types of motor vehicle theft in the State of Texas:
- Carjacking — Taking a car from a driver or owner by force or with the threat of force. This is a serious crime. And in Texas, it’s prosecuted according to the state’s robbery law.
- Joyriding — Operating any vehicle without the owner’s consent is considered a crime in the State of Texas. But unlike theft, a joyrider plans to return the vehicle. Children who go out at night and use their parent’s car to return an hour later could be convicted of joyriding.
- Failing to Return a Rental Car — If you don’t return a rental car at the time you were supposed to return it, you could be prosecuted for theft of a motor vehicle according to the general theft statute in the State of Texas.
If you drive a vehicle that doesn’t belong to you, you could face motor vehicle theft charges if any of the following apply:
- You take the vehicle without the owner’s consent.
- Someone else has stolen the vehicle, and you knowingly take possession of it.
- A police officer (usually while doing undercover work) tells you that the vehicle is stolen, and you knowingly take possession of it.
Be sure to speak to a qualified attorney for more information about motor vehicle theft charges.
Potential Penalties for Motor Vehicle Theft in the State of Texas
The seriousness of any motor vehicle theft charges will depend on the value of the vehicle. But it will generally have the following classifications:
- A state jail felony if the value of the stolen vehicle is between $2,500 and $30,000.
- A third-degree felony if the value of the stolen vehicle is between $30,000 and $150,000.
In the State of Texas, you could face serious penalties if you’re convicted of motor vehicle theft. This usually happens if the court has evidence that you had a weapon with you at the time of the crime or have a history of previous crimes. The possible penalties for theft of a motor vehicle in the State of Texas include:
- Third-Degree Felony — You could face anywhere from 2 to 10 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- State Jail Felony — You could face anywhere from six months to two years in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Some motor vehicle theft charges can be listed as a state jail felony but may have penalties that are more in line with a third-degree felony. This usually occurs if you had or used a deadly weapon that the time you committed the crime or have had a history of previous felony convictions. Be sure to speak to a qualified attorney for more information.
Possible Defenses for Motor Vehicle Theft in the State of Texas
If you’re facing motor vehicle theft charges in the State of Texas, you might be able to use the following defenses:
- Consent — You could claim that you had (or believed to have had) permission from the owner to use the vehicle during the incident in question because if consent was given, there was no crime.
- Intent — You could claim that you had no intention of depriving the owner of the vehicle, which would result in a charge of unauthorized use of a vehicle and not theft.
If you want to come up with a solid defense for motor vehicle theft, you need to have a qualified attorney by your side. And Gale Law Group is a criminal defense attorney in Corpus Christi that will do what is necessary to protect your right. Feel free to get in touch with someone at our office. We would be happy to speak with you!