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The Statute of Limitations on Property Crimes in Texas

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A property crime involves the violation of an individual’s right to his or her possessions. As defined by the Texas Penal Code, many kinds of property crimes exist, including identity theft, robbery, bank robbery, theft, armed robbery, grand theft auto, and burglary.

This post addresses theft or property crimes in the state of Texas, punishments, and the statute of limitations (SOL) for these crimes. Generally speaking, failure to comply with deadlines established by the Texas SOL for a lawsuit concerning destroyed or damaged property can result in the owner’s failure to obtain compensation from and/or conviction of the at-fault individual or individuals.

If you or someone close to you is currently facing a property crime charge in Texas, or you’re concerned about the statute of limitations for the alleged crime, you need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your legal rights. Failure to do so could have serious consequences.

Can a prosecutorial delay help the defense?

Perhaps. The Texas SOL is the period within which the government can file criminal charges against an individual. The limitations period for a felony differs from that of a misdemeanor. There may be circumstances in which the SOL period isn’t running (as governed by the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 12.01 et seq.):

  • Sexual assault [12.01(1)(C)]
  • Leaving an accident scene if it resulted in the death of someone [12.01(1)(F)]
  • Certain sexual crimes involving children (e.g. sexual assault/aggravated sexual assault of a child [12.01(1)(B)], child trafficking [12.01(1)(G)], continuous sexual abuse of a child [12.01(1)(D)], indecency with a child [12.01(1)(E)], murder [12.01(1)(A)] or manslaughter [12.01(1)(A)] have no SOL.
  • For specific theft cases involving arson, injury to a disabled or elderly person, trafficking of persons, sexual assault not involving children and not listed above, compelling prostitution, theft cases involving real estate, forgery, or theft by a public servant, the limitations period is 10 years.
  • Securing an execution of government documents through fraudulent means, credit or debit card abuse, false statement(s) made to obtain credit or property, Medicaid fraud, money laundering, bigamy, identity theft, or the misapplication of fiduciary property has a limitations period of 7 years.
  • Other theft charges, insurance fraud, burglary, kidnapping, abandoning or endangering a child, and robbery, the SOL is 5 years.
  • Any other felony has a SOL of 3 years.

Have you been charged with a property crime in Texas?
Contact a defense attorney at the Law Office of Brett A. Podolsky today 

Types of Theft and Property Crimes in Texas

If someone’s property was damaged by another party in Texas, he or she may be considering the filing of a lawsuit to address what happened. It’s important for defendants to understand Texas’s statute of limitations regarding property damage claims, regardless of whether the potential case concerns real property, such as damage to someone else’s land or home, or personal property, such as a vehicle.

The legal term, statute of limitations, is a Texas state law that may affect a plaintiff’s legal right to file a lawsuit regarding a dispute or resulting harm suffered, by placing a time limit on his or her ability to take the case to court.

Statute of Limitations filing deadline in Texas

Under Texas Civil Practice & Remedies § 16.003, the plaintiff has a two-year deadline in which to file any lawsuit that seeks replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged property, either personal or real property. The lawsuit must be initiated within two years from the date of the property damage or destruction.

The two-year statute of limitations deadline applies when the plaintiff asks the court to award financial compensation for destroyed or damaged property—whether a claim is stand-alone or included in a larger action, such as a motor vehicle collision case with vehicle damage and personal injury facets.

Extending the Texas Statute of Limitations

In a property damage claim, as in most other types of civil legal claims, several scenarios could “pause” or toll or extend the deadline for the filing of the claim as established by the Texas statute of limitations, including:

  • When the owner of the property is less than 18 years old or was previously declared of unsound mind, he or she may be seen to be under legal disability at the time of the property damage occurrence. The disability period isn’t included in the two-year statute of limitations period. However, if the legal disability is present when the statute of limitations starts, it won’t suspend the period as per Texas Civil Practice & Remedies § 16.001.
  • If the defendant isn’t in the state of Texas for a portion of the two-year period, the deadline for the statute of limitations is extended for the time he or she was absent under Texas Civil Practice & Remedies § 16.063.

Additional exceptions could apply to lengthen the statute of limitations’ deadline in Texas. If you’re named as a defendant in a property damage lawsuit or if you concerned about the statute of limitations in a potential claim, you need an experienced Texas defense attorney.

What happens if the plaintiff misses the filing deadline?

If the two-year statute of limitations is past but the plaintiff attempts to file the damage claim, the defendant may make a motion to the court to ask it to dismiss. In most instances, the court is likely to grant a dismissal.

In that scenario, the plaintiff loses his or her right to bring any legal action for the property damage. In that case, the defendant can’t be ordered to pay the plaintiff for damaged property.

Criminal Punishments

  • Under Texas Penal Code (12.31, 19.03, 8.07) and the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure (37.071, 43.14), a defendant may face capital punishment if he or she commits capital homicide, such as when the victim is a fireman or peace officer killed on duty; murder occurred at the time the defendant committed or attempted to commit arson, kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, burglary, or robbery; multiple murders were committed; the victim was less than 10 years old; or the defendant either hired another person to commit murder or was hired by another party to commit the murder.
  • Texas doesn’t acknowledge first-degree murder. If convicted, the defendant faces the death penalty.
  • Texas also doesn’t acknowledge second-degree murder. In Texas, the crime is murder. If convicted of murder, the defendant faces a first-degree felony. If found guilty, he or she faces a minimum five-year to maximum 99-year prison sentence plus a maximum $10,000 fine. If the court finds adequate cause to believe that the homicide was committed in the heat of passion, the charges are reduced to a minimum 2-year to maximum 20-year prison sentence plus a maximum $10,000 fine.
  • If found guilty of manslaughter [Texas Penal Code Chapter 19.04(a)], the defendant faces a second-degree felony charge of at least two to 20 years in prison.
  • If convicted of theft or damage of property valued of at least $200,000 or aggravated sexual assault, the offender faces five to 99 years in prison plus a maximum $10,000 fine.
  • If convicted of theft or damage of property valued between $100,000 up to $199,999, or aggravated assault, or reckless injury of a child, he or she faces a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years behind bars plus a maximum $10,000 fine.
  • If convicted of theft or damage of property valued between $20,000 to $99,999, or drive-by-shooting (without injury), the offender faces a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison plus a maximum $10,000 fine.
  • If convicted of the theft or damage of property valued at $1,500 up to $19,999, or credit/debit card abuse/theft, the offender faces a state jail felony punishable by a 180-day to two-year jail sentence plus a maximum $10,000 fine.

Misdemeanors have a limitations period of only two years from the day the offense occurred. The date upon which the information is presented or on which an indictment occurs is excluded from the calculation of the limitations period.

Misdemeanor Punishments

  • If convicted of the theft or damage of property valued at $500 to $1,499, stalking without bodily injury or theft of cable service, the defendant faces a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a one-year jail sentence and a maximum $4,000 fine.
  • If found guilty of the theft or damage of property valued at $20 to $499, DWI, or making a terrorist threat, he or she faces a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a 180-day jail sentence and a maximum $2,000 fine.
  • If found guilty of the theft or damage of property worth less than $20, attending a dog fight, assault (without bodily injury), or producing/selling academic papers or reports intended for use by another party, he or she faces a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine.

Contact an Experienced Property Damage Defense Attorney in Houston

As you can see, it’s not worth the risk to assume the statute of limitations will run out. If you’re concerned about a potential property damage claim, protect your rights by contacting a knowledgeable, aggressive criminal defense attorney.

Brett A. Podolsky is a Texas board-certified criminal trial lawyer. He served as a Texas Assistant Criminal District Attorney. He has the experience and skills you need to avoid severe punishments associated with serious property damage claim convictions.

Contact the Law Office of Brett A. Podolsky at (713) 227-0087 to schedule a preliminary case review.

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