With Amazon Prime and the increase of online shopping in recent years, many people have packages left on their doorsteps on a regular basis. Sometimes, seeing unattended packages is a cue for unscrupulous people to steal them when they believe no one is home. The Texas legislature recently took action to try to combat the theft of packages from porches, as they increased the charges and penalties for this specific offense. House Bill 37 became law and took effect on September 1, 2019.
New Charges and Penalties
Generally speaking, if you steal something in Texas worth $50 to $500, it is a Class B misdemeanor. Stealing items worth $500 to $1,500 is a Class A misdemeanor. This means that if you took a package from a porch with items valued less than $1,500, you would be charged with a misdemeanor and the maximum jail sentence would be one year.
Now, the new law changes the degree of charges that can be issued for stealing packages of other people’s porches. The law also involves all types of mail, and stealing anything that was delivered is now a felony charge, as follows:
- Stealing ten or fewer packages or pieces of mail = State felony charge, and a conviction can mean 180 days to two years in jail, as well as a $10,000 fine
- Stealing 11 to 49 packages or pieces of mail = Third-degree felony charges, and a conviction can mean two to ten years in state prison, as well as $10,000 fine
- Stealing 50 or more packages or pieces of mail = Second-degree felony charges, and a conviction can mean two to 20 years in state prison, as well as $10,000 fine
Generally speaking, the charges you face will depend on the number of items stolen. For example, you could face the same charges for stealing ten packages containing iPhones as you could for stealing ten packages containing baseballs. However, if the value of stolen items is particularly high, it might escalate the charges. If you steal five packages but the items are worth $20,000, the charges can increase from a state jail felony to a third-degree felony.
Defending Against Package Theft
Often, when people steal packages from porches, there is no one home to see who stole from the porch. However, neighbors might witness the theft and call the police, and more and more people have security cameras as part of Nest or Ring systems that might catch someone in action. Witness reports and video evidence often lead law enforcement to make arrests in porch theft cases. The prosecutor will then review evidence and issue charges if they believe they have enough evidence to secure a conviction. It is important to have a highly skilled Austin criminal defense attorney defending against your charges and the evidence against you.
Contact an Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer for Assistance Today
At Granger and Mueller, PC, out defense lawyers assist clients facing many types of charges, including package theft. Contact us for assistance as soon as you can after an arrest.