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  • Writer's pictureJustin Sparks

Theft Statute of Limitations | Texas Laws Alleged Offenders Must Know

Texas has a time limit for prosecutions. It's known as the statute of limitations and defines the period within which criminal charges must be filed against the alleged offender.


However, the statute of limitations may vary and can be extended or tolled based on several factors, including the degree or severity of the crime.


What is the time limit for prosecution for theft? This article explores Texas laws to answer that question.


What Are Theft Crimes in Texas?

What Are Theft Crimes in Texas?


According to Texas theft laws, acts involving individuals who intentionally steal property belonging to another person or entity without their permission may fall within this category.

In this regard, theft crimes may include the following:


  • Petty theft

  • Grand theft

  • Shoplifting

  • Larceny

  • Fraud

  • Embezzlement

  • Armed robbery

  • Burglary


Other acts can be considered "theft" under Texas law, even if perpetrators don't personally and directly deprive the owner of their property, such as:


  • Knowingly receiving stolen property

  • Failing to perform an affirmative action that would have proven that the property received was stolen


The Statute of Limitations for a Theft Crime in Texas


The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure states that the time limit for filing theft charges against the alleged offender is generally five years from the date the crime occurred. However, this period can be tolled or extended.


As mentioned, the criminal statute of limitations may vary depending on the type and severity of the offense. These are the time limits for most theft crimes:


  • Misdemeanor theft charge: Two years

  • Felony theft charge: Between three and five years

  • Theft by fiduciary: 10 years

  • Theft by public servant of government property: 10 years


More often than not, the time limit for filing theft charges starts running at the time the offense is committed. However, the statute of limitations may be paused under certain circumstances. For more information, experienced criminal attorneys may be able to help.


Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations for Theft Crimes

In Texas, the statute of limitations won't always start when the crime occurs. This time limit may be paused, suspended, or extended due to other events, such as:


  • Minor victim: If the alleged victim is a minor when the crime occurs, the statute of limitations may be tolled until they turn 18 years old.

  • Criminal charges filed: In some cases, the clock pauses when criminal charges are filed and starts running again if they're dismissed.

  • Indictment: If the alleged offender faces legal action for the same conduct, the statute of limitations may be tolled during the indictment period.


Potential Penalties and Sentencing for Theft Crimes in Texas


A person found guilty of committing this criminal offense may face severe consequences. Offenders may be penalized with a sum equivalent to the value of the property that was stolen.


Criminal cases involving the theft of high-value items are more serious. As such, they're subject to more severe charges.


Below are the potential penalties for theft crimes based on the value of the property victims were deprived of:


  • $100 or less: Charged as a Class C misdemeanor and subject to fines of up to $500

  • Between $100 and $750: Charged as a Class B misdemeanor and subject to fines of up to $2,000 and a maximum of 180 days in jail

  • Between $750 and $2,500: Charged as a Class A misdemeanor and subject to fines of up to $4,000 and up to one year in jail

  • Between $2,500 and $30,000: Charged as a state jail felony and subject to 180 days-two years behind bars and up to $10,000 in fines

  • Between $30,000 and $15,000: Charged as a third-degree felony and subject to between two and 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines

  • Between $150,000 and $300,000: Charged as a second-degree felony and subject to up to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines

  • $300,000 or more: Charged as a first-degree felony and subject to between five and 99 years or life in prison and up to $10,000 in fines


More Severe Sentencing for Elevated Charges

If found guilty, the defendant can face even tougher charges and sentences. Some penalties may be elevated if the misdemeanor or felony is considered severe, regardless of the value of the stolen property.


In Texas, people with prior theft convictions are more likely to face elevated sentencing. An individual who has been convicted of this criminal offense two or more times in the past will be charged with a felony, for example.


Statutes of Limitations for Other Criminal Charges in Texas


The following are the statutes of limitations for other criminal cases recognized by Texas laws besides the two-year period for most misdemeanors:


  • Three-year limit: Domestic violence cases classified as misdemeanors and felonies that don't appear in Art. 12.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure

  • Five-year limit: Theft and robbery, abandoning or endangering a child, insurance fraud, kidnapping, and burglary

  • Seven-year limit: Any criminal violation listed in Chapter 162 of the Tax Code, money laundering, false statement to obtain property or credit, bigamy, and Medicaid fraud

  • 10-year limit: Some sexual assault cases, injury to an elderly or disabled person, misapplication of fiduciary property or property of a financial institution, forgery, arson, human trafficking, and compelling prostitution

  • 20-year limit: Aggravated kidnapping, sexual performance by a child, and burglary

  • No limitations: Aggravated sexual assault, murder, manslaughter, continuous human trafficking, indecency with a child, and other sex crimes involving children


Defenses Alleged Offenders Can Use in Texas


Having a criminal record for theft can greatly impact a person's life. However, alleged offenders have the right to seek legal counsel and defend themselves against such allegations.


These are some of the defenses attorneys can use:


  • The alleged offender had no intention of permanently depriving the owner of their property.

  • The defendant was wrongly accused of theft.

  • Prosecutors cannot prove the value of the stolen property beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • The defendant applies for a diversion program.

  • Criminal charges aren't filed within the limitation period.


Final Thoughts: Do Defendants Need Help from a Lawyer?

Final Thoughts: Do Defendants Need Help from a Lawyer?


Facing criminal theft charges can be stressful and overwhelming, but alleged offenders are entitled to legal representation.


People facing such allegations should contact a seasoned lawyer as soon as possible to get their cases evaluated.


A criminal defense attorney with experience in theft offenses can help defendants understand their legal rights and determine the best course of action to address these claims. They can also assist with discussing an embezzlement statute of limitations Texas.


Contact Sparks Law Firm Today!

At Sparks Law Firm, there's an experienced, respectful, and compassionate legal team ready to help people accused of theft know if the charges were filed within the statute of limitations period or whether there's another defense that can be used to avoid or reduce penalties. Get in touch today!

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