Under most circumstances, making an honest mistake is a defense to theft charges in Frisco. Under Texas law, theft is defined as unlawfully appropriating property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. In plain English, this means taking something that does not belong to you without consent and with no intention of giving the property back to its rightful owner. In Texas, it is also considered theft if you receive property knowing that it was stolen by someone else.
To be convicted of theft, you must have acted with criminal intent. Criminal intent means that you purposefully took property that did not belong to you, and you had no plans to return it. An honest mistake is a defense to theft when it negates the requisite intent.
What is the Difference Between a Mistake of Fact and a Mistake of Law?
In general, “mistake of fact” can be used as a defense to theft, but “mistake of law” cannot. A mistake of law means that the defendant misunderstood a particular law. The person knowingly does something but does not know that it is illegal. Not knowing that a specific act is unlawful is not a defense. For example, if you are a pawn shop owner and accept goods that you know are stolen, you can be convicted even if you were not aware that you were acting illegally.
A mistake of fact occurs when the defendant is genuinely mistaken about a particular fact. The factual misunderstanding negates the criminal intent.
What are Examples of the Honest Mistake Defense in Frisco?
There are various honest mistakes that you can make that would negate the mental state required for a theft conviction in Frisco. Below are a few examples of the honest mistake defense in theft cases.
- You were not aware the item was in your possession. Example: You are shopping and leave a small item in the bottom of your cart or basket without realizing it and leave the store without paying.
- You borrowed an item and forgot to return it. Example: Your neighbor allowed you to borrow their lawnmower for the summer, but you forget to return the mower once fall arrives.
- You mistakenly believed that you had rightful ownership over the property. Example: Your neighbor buys the same model bicycle as you, and you take your neighbor’s bike mistakenly believing that it is yours.
- You accepted stolen property but were unaware that it was stolen. Example: On your birthday, your boyfriend gives you a Louis Vuitton bag. You happily accept the gift because you did not know and reasonably should not have known that he shoplifted the bag from the mall.
- You mistakenly believed that you were given consent. Example: You are visiting your friend at their apartment, and your friend gives you permission to take a MacBook because your computer had broken. You were under the impression that the MacBook was your friend’s backup computer, but unbeknownst to you, it was your friend’s roommate’s computer. You mistakenly thought your friend had the authority to give you consent.
Do You Need an Attorney to Defend Theft Charges in Frisco?
If you are facing theft charges, you should immediately reach out to an experienced Frisco criminal defense attorney. Theft charges can carry serious consequences, and the honest mistake defense is difficult to prove. Your attorney must convince the court of what was in your mind at the time of the crime.
It is critical to have a qualified attorney to provide an aggressive defense because a conviction can result in steep fines and prison time. In Texas, the penalties for a theft conviction depend on the value of the property taken. The more valuable the property, the more severe the punishment. The lowest possible charge is a Class C misdemeanor for property valued under $100. Once the property taken reaches a value of $2,500 or more, it is a felony charge. The highest possible charge is a first-degree felony for property valued at $300,000 or more. First-degree felonies are punishable by five to 99 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. In addition, having a conviction on your permanent record can be life-changing, including affecting your employment, educational, and housing opportunities.
Your Frisco Criminal Defense Attorney
Hiring an experienced Frisco defense attorney can make a big difference in your theft case. Philip D. Ray will fight your theft charges with an aggressive and strategic defense. Call Philip D. Ray today to schedule a consultation at 469-588-6770.