When you hear the word “theft,” your first thought might be of shoplifting or, say, snatching an individual’s purse. But the misdemeanor offense of theft is broadly defined in Texas to cover any unlawful “appropriation” of property without the owner’s consent. This includes situations where the owner initially gave the property to the alleged thief.
Take this recent decision from the Texas 14th District Court of Appeals, Cone v. State. The defendant in this case rented a keyboard from a company in Travis County that specializes in leasing musical equipment. Under the terms of the rental agreement, the defendant was required to return the keyboard and its related accessories within one month.
Unfortunately, when the month ended, the defendant never returned the equipment. The reasons for this were the subject of the defendant’s misdemeanor theft trial. The defendant said he rented the equipment for a “jam session.” Afterwards, the defendant traveled out of town, only to find someone had broken into his apartment and stolen the keyboard equipment. The defendant said he reported the theft to an employee of the rental company, although he could not remember their name.
The rental company told a different story. It claimed that when the defendant failed to return the keyboard equipment on-time, it made multiple attempts to contact him over a three-month period. When the defendant still failed to respond, the company contacted the police. A detective then interviewed the defendant, who repeated the story about the break-in. The detective later discovered the keyboard equipment had been pawned “in a nearby city just two weeks after [the defendant] rented the equipment.” After returning the equipment to the rental company, police arrested the defendant and charged him with Class A misdemeanor theft, which covers the unlawful appropriation of property worth between $750 and $2,500.
The defendant opted for a bench trial. The judge found the defendant guilty and sentenced him to 10 days in jail. On appeal, the defendant argued there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction. The 14th district disagreed. The main issue raised was the purported failure of an employee from the pawnshop to positively identify the defendant as the person who actually pawned the keyboard equipment. Although it was true the employee “did not specifically identify [the defendant] in open court as the person who pawned the keyboard kit,” the witness did produce an “electronic record of the pawn ticket” that listed the defendant as the individual who claimed to own the keyboard equipment. And even though the ticket identified the pawner as white–and the defendant is black–the appeals court reasoned this could have been an honest “mistake” made by the employee.
Speak with a Houston Misdemeanor Crimes Defense Lawyer Today
Even if you believe a theft charge is the result of an honest misunderstanding, the property owner and the police may not see things your way. That is why you need to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can represent your interests in court. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston or League City today if you have been charged with any misdemeanor crime and require immediate legal advice. Call (281) 280-0100.