Theft & Property Crimes

Theft & Property Crimes Attorney – Brett A. Podolsky

Property crimes are defined as the unlawful appropriation of property with the intent of depriving the owner of the property. 

Property crimes, typically thefts but including other crimes, can be prosecuted as anything from a class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. It depends on the type of crime and whether anyone was injured or killed when the crime happened.

There are many different types of theft and property crimes. Below is a list of the ones most commonly charged:

Are you facing criminal charges for theft in the state of Texas? Allow attorney Brett Podolsky to help you navigate a complex legal system. He has a strong track record of defending his clients and getting the best results possible.

The Basic Definition for Theft

The crime of theft is the basic offense involved within the category of theft and property crimes. Most other charges will start from the basic building blocks of theft and then add a few different and separate elements to create a new crime. For a person to commit theft, they must take another person’s property without that person’s consent and with the intent to never return that property. An example of theft would be for a person to take an umbrella from a stranger with no intention of ever giving it back. However, it is not theft to borrow an umbrella from a friend with the intent to return it but to simply forget to do so.

From this basic definition, different elements can be added to it to create new crimes. By adding the element of entering a building to commit theft, it becomes the crime of burglary. For a crime to be robbery, the basic elements of theft are present plus the added element of causing fear or bodily harm in another person.


Arson involves burning property with unlawful intent or without the consent of the owner. It also includes setting a fire intentionally or accidentally letting a fire get out of control and become dangerous. 

Common motives for arson include bigotry and the commission of insurance fraud. Arson may also be charged if the fire is caused while attempting to manufacture drugs. The fire need not spread for the responsible party to be charged with arson. The individual can be prosecuted even if the act was unsuccessful.

The penalties for arson are as follows:

  • First-degree felony if it involves death, bodily injury, or damage to public structures such as churches, schools, or cemeteries. It comes with a possible life sentence and a $10,000 fine plus restitution to the victim or victim’s family.
  • Second-degree felony or misdemeanor depending on the severity of the damage and the evidence presented to the court. An intentionally started fire that causes damage within the city limits or damage to another person’s property to obtain an insurance payout can come with a 20-year sentence and a fine of up to $10,000. The perpetrator must also make restitution to the property owner.
  • State jail felony for recklessly starting a fire or allowing it to grow out of control, causing damage. It comes with 180 days to two years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

Arson caused during the attempted manufacture of illegal drugs carries a punishment with high fines and incarceration from six months to two years. The general sentence for arson is two to 20 years. 


Robbery is considered a violent crime. It carries more severe penalties than typical theft of property because the threat of violence is always present.

The definition of robbery is the use of threat or force to take possession of another person’s property. If the crime is committed against the elderly or disabled, it is enhanced to aggravated robbery.

  • Basic robbery penalties include fines and court costs, restitution, jail or prison time, and community supervision.
  • Second-degree felony robbery carries a penalty of two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • First-degree felony aggravated robbery is punishable by five to 99 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Robbery vs. Bank Robbery

The difference between basic robbery and bank robbery is that bank robbery is a federal crime, investigated by the FBI. The federal government insures most banks and credit unions.

Theft of less than $1,000 without threats or violence can bring up to one year in jail. The theft of more than $1,000 without threats or violence can have a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

If the bank robbery involved a weapon or dangerous device, it is a second-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 25 years. If death occurs during the commission of the bank robbery or while fleeing the scene, it is a first-degree felony, and the maximum sentence is the death penalty.

Robbery vs. Theft

Theft is taking another individual’s property without that person’s consent, with the intent never to return the property to its owner. 

Robbery can result from an attempted theft where the perpetrator knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, puts someone in fear of injury or death, or hurts or threatens to hurt a bystander while trying to escape with stolen goods

Robbery charges bring more severe penalties than theft due to the threat of violence associated with it.

How Can Brett A. Podolsky Help?

Houston theft attorney Brett Podolsky is experienced and knowledgeable in defending all types of theft and property crimes. He can effectively evaluate his client’s case and will pursue the best course of action for his client and will fight for his clients to receive the most favorable outcome for their particular case.

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Burglary is the unlawful breaking and entering of an occupied building or structure with the intent to commit a crime such as theft or assault. Even if the perpetrator is unsuccessful, the court may still convict.

The penalty for burglary depends on the value of the goods or property stolen or any damaged property. Burglary carries a jail sentence of six months to two years and fines up to $10,000. If the accused has been convicted of burglary more than twice before, the charge may be escalated to a state jail felony. 

Did you know you can be arrested for breaking into your own home or car in Texas? Someone may see you and report a burglary in progress to the police. Therefore, the authorities will be looking for signs of criminal activity. If this happens to you:

  • Stay calm and courteous.
  • Provide ID when asked.
  • Explain the situation in detail.
  • If you are handcuffed and questioned, respectfully cooperate.

If you are taken to jail, remain respectful and cooperative. Still, once under arrest, you should not speak without the presence of an attorney. 

You cannot be held indefinitely. The police must charge you within 72 hours or release you.

Criminal Trespassing

Criminal trespassing is entering another person’s property after receiving notice or express orders that entry is prohibited. It includes ignoring the clear intent of the property owner. Notice can be given:

  • Verbally 
  • In writing
  • Through signage on the property
  • Through gates or fences
  • Through the visible presence of crops
  • Through purple paint marks of the required size and placement on posts or trees

Criminal trespass can be charged if the perpetrator enters forest land, agricultural land (including cattle enclosures), a superfund site, a critical infrastructure facility, or an institute of higher learning.

Individuals can be charged with criminal trespass if they refuse to leave someone’s property after being told to depart.

Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor offense: 

  • Class C with a maximum $500 fine – trespassing on agricultural land appropriate for plants, animals, and trees or within 100 feet of an agricultural boundary or freshwater area
  • Class B with up to 180 days in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine – most other trespass crimes
  • Class A with up to one year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine – for home trespassing incidents or other similar circumstances such as trespassing on a habitation, shelter, superfund site, or critical infrastructure facility while carrying a weapon, or multiple trespass charges on the property of an institute of higher learning


A person placed in a position of trust to manage money or property of another commits embezzlement by stealing all or part of the money or property for personal gain. Often, embezzlement is considered a type of theft by an employee.

Embezzlement charges can result from:

  • Falsifying corporate documents
  • Concealing information about an employer’s assets
  • Stealing from a safe or cash register
  • Transferring funds from a corporate bank account to a personal account
  • Stealing goods or services from an employer
  • Changing records to reflect a company’s financial standing inaccurately
  • Mishandling clients’ funds or assets

The penalty depends on the amount embezzled. If someone embezzles $1,500 or less, they may be charged with a misdemeanor and serve up to a year in jail. Embezzling more than $200,000 in cash, goods, or services can result in a felony conviction carrying five to 99 years in prison.


Shoplifting, also known as retail theft, is the theft of merchandise from a retail establishment or obtaining an item by paying a fraudulent or unauthorized discount price. The act is deliberate, and the perpetrator has a clear intention of not paying for the item.

Shoplifting includes switching or altering price tags and returning a stolen item in exchange for cash or goods. 

The penalties are based on the value of the stolen goods:

  • Class C misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $500 for shoplifting less than $50 worth of goods
  • Class B misdemeanor with a maximum of 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine for shoplifting goods valued between $50 and $499
  • Class A misdemeanor with a maximum of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine for shoplifting goods valued between $500 and $1,499
  • Shoplifting items valued between $1,500 and $19,999 is a state jail felony and can carry a sentence of up to two years in state jail and a maximum fine of $10,000

An individual can incur additional penalties for preventing or attempting to prevent a retail theft detector from activating or using a device that deactivates a retail theft detector. Anyone making or distributing a device used to deactivate a retail theft detector can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.

The extent of the charges also depends on the total retail value of the stolen merchandise or services, whether the perpetrator has prior convictions, and whether the person committed credit card or check fraud to obtain goods or services.

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Are you or someone you know facing criminal charges? Contact attorney Brett Podolsky today for aggressive legal defense.

Houston criminal defense lawyer Brett A. Podolsky is a former prosecutor for the State of Texas. He uses his years of criminal trial experience and knowledge of the criminal laws to advise and defend people.

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