Been Caught Stealin? New law lowers theft penalties in Texas.

As any believer in sound money will tell you, inflation eats away at the purchasing power of your dollar. But without indexing for inflation, a thief who steals $49 worth of good 15 years ago, got a lot better deal than one who stole something 15 months ago.

In acknowledgement of this economic fact the legislature recently lowered the theft penalty ranges, by increasing how much shit you can steal before it becomes a felony, or class B misdemeanor.

The new amounts, for theft offenses committed after 9/1/2015, are as follows-

$99.99 or less – Class C Misdemeanor (like a ticket)
$100.00 to $749.99 – Class B (like a DWI or small pot case)
$750.00 to $2,499.99 – Class A (like family violence, or over 3 ounces of chronic)
$2,500.00 to $29,999.99
– State Jail Felony (like possessing 1/2 a gram of cocaine)
$30,000.00 – $149,999.99 – Third Degree Felony (like failure to register, or your 5th DWI)
$150,000.00 to $299,999.99 – Second Degree Felony (like an assault in which you break someone’s arm)
$300,000.00 and higher – First degree Felony (like murder, or over 4 grams of meth).

Why the analogies? First, theft is a real crime with a real victim. Second, the general public sees the law as good measure of morality. That is, felonies are really bad, and you are bad if you did one.

Let’s compare some offenses, DWI is the most politicized misdemeanor we have right now. It gets the most attention, and the most jury trial in Texas. It’s the same degree of offense as sitting on your front porch with a half smoked joint in your hand,  or stealing $700 worth of baby formula and Tide from Wal Mart. One thing about drug cases in Texas is that they get lumped in the same offense categories as offenses that actually matter.

State jail felonies are even more absurd. Having .001 grams of meth is prosecuted at the same level as stealing $20,000. Hmm…. does that strike anyone else as insane? These ranges of punishment are a guide, a signal to those in law enforcement and DA’s offices as to what the legislature thinks they should spend time on. And one reason state jail dope arrests are so popular among cops, is that it looks they solved a real crime when they bust a guy with a crack rock. It’s at least as bad as stealing $20k right?

One thing about theft cases is that plea negotiations are often the most financially driven. That is, the odds you will end up on probation are directly related to your ability to pay the victim back. You can’t pay anyone back if you are in prison. So if you are caught stealing a felonious amount, be prepared to bring cash to the plea bargain table. It’s one of the few crimes you can literally buy a better deal. Huge fines generally don’t interest prosecutors as much as restitution, so this won’t really work in other cases. That’s actually a good thing, fines go the government, whereas restitution goes to a real person.

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