Contact Us for a Free Consultation 713-222-9141


The Texas Penal Code has an entire section devoted to crimes against Property. Theft is chief among them. Theft is defined as the appropriation of property, including money, without the effective consent of the owner and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of his property.  

Theft crimes encompass a wide variety of criminal activity including fraud, shoplifting, robbery, embezzlement, carjacking and auto theft, money laundering, identity theft, misdemeanor theft.  The determination of whether a theft crime will be classified as a misdemeanor or felony depends on the value of the property allegedly stolen. Not all theft crimes are created the same, and this allows a Houston theft lawyer to negotiate settlements with the State that could transform a Felony Theft into a Misdemeanor.


This crime is the most common type of Theft. It involves taking something from a store of some kind without paying for it and with the intent not to pay for it. Often times an individual accused of this crime is stopped outside the store by security. Sometimes intent is presumed when security personnel observes an accused hide merchandise in a bag or in his clothing while shopping. In any case, the intent to permanently deprive must be proven for a conviction to be obtained by the State.

Shoplifting is not as simple as prosecutors like to make it. A person who is accused of shoplifting from a store must be proven to have the intent to steal. Simply because someone walks out the door with unpaid merchandise does not necessarily mean they are stealing.

Not too long ago we defended a woman who was stopped outside of a store with children's clothes in the bottom of her stroller. Video showed her putting the items in the stroller. At checkout, she put some items on the cashier's conveyer belt but forgot to retrieve the items in the bottom of her stroller. After walking out of the store, she was stopped in the parking lot, taken inside and accused of shoplifting. Her children watched as their mother was taken away in handcuffs. At trial, she was acquitted.

Some counties, like Harris County, Texas, have programs which allow first time shoplifters to avoid conviction and a plea of guilty. These usually involve completing classes and performing community service in lieu of a conviction. Not everyone is eligible for this program.

Is Shoplifting a Felony in Texas and What Is the Penalty?

It can be. It depends on the value of the item stolen. The shoplifting offense in Texas is considered a Class C Misdemeanor if the items stolen are worth less than $100 and a Class B Misdemeanor if they are worth between $100 and $750.  A Class A misdemeanor can be charged if the value of the property is $750 – $2,500. Anything over $2,500 can be charged as a felony.

Why Do You Need to Hire a Theft Lawyer If Charged with Shoplifting in Texas

It is imperative that a person accused of this crime not assume a conviction. A theft conviction will wreak havoc on a person's future employment and educational goals. The vast majority of employers will not hire someone who has theft on their record.

If you have been arrested for this crime, call Chernoff Law.  We don't charge for an initial consultation.

Burglary & Robbery

Burglary involves breaking and entering into a residence or building with the intent to commit a Theft, Felony or Assault.

Robbery is the taking of another's money or property using verbal threat or force. The use of a weapon during a robbery is considered Aggravated Robbery.

Burglary of a Motor Vehicle is the unlawful entry into a vehicle in order to commit a theft. A first time offense is a misdemeanor in Texas.

Are Robbery and Burglary Felonies in Texas and What Are the Penalties

Both Robbery and Burglary are felonies with penalties of fines, incarceration and usually restitution. Robbery is a second degree felony unless a deadly weapon is used. Punishment can be from 2 years in prison to life, depending on the circumstances. Burglary of a building carries with it punishment from 2 years to 10 years in prison.

If the Burglary involved a habitation, the range of punishment can be up to 20 years in prison.

Punishment for this offense depends on the severity of the break and the intent of the accused at the time of the entry. An accused who is prosecuted for entering a habitation with the intent to commit sexual assault is likely to face more penalty than a teenager who breaks into a neighbor's garage to steal a bicycle. Sometimes an issue arises as to intent. In such a case, a Burglary may be negotiated down to a misdemeanor Trespass charge.

Why Do You Need a Defense Lawyer if charged with Burglary or Robbery

If this is a first offense it is important to avoid having a conviction on your record. It can have a significant impact upon your future when you apply for a job or to a college as college boards and employers very often conduct a background check. It is not unusual for kids to be caught up in a prank that results in a burglary charge.  

An experienced robbery and burglary lawyer can often intercede in such cases to avoid prosecution. Juvenile offenses involving robbery or burglary should be defended by an experienced defense lawyer who is fully knowledgeable in the juvenile court system.

Even if you are told that an eye witness has identified you so you might as well confess, this does not mean you will be convicted in a trial. You are entitled to a powerful defense. Eyewitnesses are often mistaken in making an identification, and it takes an aggressive criminal defense lawyer to deal with such persuasive testimony. Each case is unique and requires a creative approach when designing an effective defense strategy. Our determination to achieve a positive outcome has brought clients from all over the state to our office.

Call Chernoff Law for an initial consultation at no charge.

Identity Theft

This type of theft involves the use of another individuals' identifying information, such as credit, social security and driver's license numbers to obtain property or money. If the case involves the use of someone's credit card without authorization, it is charged as Unauthorized Use of  Credit.

A charge of theft may result if someone uses the personal identity information of another for financial gain. Personal identity information can be used to open credit card accounts, bank accounts, and carry out other illegal acts. Many of these crimes are committed on the internet, where a knowledgeable person can channel illegal activity through the IP addresses of unprotected computers. In these cases, the accused person may be totally innocent of any connection with the crime but is presumed guilty and faces charges.

Is Identity Theft a Misdemeanor or a Felony?

Identity Theft is considered a felony in Texas and is persecuted vigorously in courts.

The severity of the penalties depends on the number of items that were obtained, possessed and transferred and on the intent of use. Penalties may range from 180 days in prison up to a life sentence depending on the amount allegedly taken through the use of the stolen information.

Hire a Good Identity Theft Lawyer

Any theft crime is treated seriously by prosecutors and requires a strong and well-designed defense by an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney. Not all defense lawyers are equal in qualifications or experience. As a former chief prosecutor and assistant district attorney, our firm's founding attorney Ed Chernoff is Board-Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He represents clients throughout the state of Texas in state and federal courts, whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a serious felony.

Our reputation has been won through years of dedication to protecting and defending the legal rights of each client. We fully understand your future is at stake and take all possible legal measures to challenge the prosecution's case in order to protect your rights. Call Chernoff Law to consult with a skilled criminal defense lawyer.

The attempt or act of using deceit to take another's services, money or property is called fraud. Fraud often falls under the general category of “white collar crime” because these offenses are frequently committed by a business person or during business relations between a client and service provider, employee and employer or between family members.

Because of the current economic state, investigators are energetic in locating and prosecuting individuals who use misrepresentation to gain financially. In their zeal to bring charges, their investigation may connect innocent persons to fraudulent activity.

Fraudulent schemes can be simple or very complex. Sometimes business ventures or investment activities are so complicated it may only appear a theft scheme has been attempted. In some cases documents have been altered so it appears to an investigator that the person who signed the agreement was a party to some conspiracy. Untangling such situations to expose the truth and flaws in the prosecution's case depends solely upon having a knowledgeable fraud crimes lawyer protecting your interests. Some types of fraud an individual or a business might face in federal or state courts may be related to the following activities:

  • Loan origination
  • Mortgage Brokering
  • Bank documents
  • Computer hacking
  • Insurance sales
  • Commercial real estate
  • Corporate contracts
  • Credit card use
  • Internet sales schemes

Our firm's founding attorney Ed Chernoff is a former prosecutor who has extensive experience in both prosecution and in the criminal defense of complex fraud cases. Our expertise has resulted in a long record of obtaining positive outcomes for numerous clients throughout the state of Texas. Call Chernoff Law for a consultation with a skilled and aggressive criminal defense lawyer.

Bank Fraud and Embezzlement

A White Collar Crime, no matter how complicated the scheme, is still considered a theft. However, because it often involves large amounts of money and requires substantially more investigation, embezzlement cases are assigned to special prosecutorial divisions.

In Harris County, for instance,  there are two sections of the District Attorney's office that handle large fraud cases – the Major Fraud Division and the Consumer Fraud Division. If accused of theft or embezzlement, you will need a strong White Collar Crimes Lawyer!

If substantial enough, the FBI may also investigate White Collar Crimes. They are charged in United States District Court and assigned to an Assistant U.S. Attorney for prosecution. Most of the time, a theft crime in Federal Court will be charged as bank fraud or wire fraud.

What Is The Possible Embezzlement Penalty?

Under the Texas Penal Code, Embezzlement is classified as theft. The determination of penalties depends on the amount allegedly stolen from the business. Most of the time, the amounts are substantial and charged as a felony. It is not unusual for an embezzlement case to be charged as a First Degree felony. This carries with it a penalty from 5 years to life in prison.

Why hire Houston White Collar Crimes Lawyer Ed Chernoff?

A person charged with this crime must take care to retain a law firm with substantial experience in financial crimes. Usually the defense to this crime is hidden in massive amounts of documents. If a lawyer does not know how to interpret and analyze these documents, the defense will be lost. If a white collar crimes lawyer is not knowledgeable and conversant in financial matters, he will not be able to explain his client's defense to a jury.

At Chernoff Law we have had cases where an investigator has persuaded the employee to confess to theft by promising him that the company is only interested in restitution. Once the employee confessed and agreed to a payment plan, the investigator shipped the case off to the District Attorney's office for prosecution.

Sometimes an embezzlement scheme is so complicated, a confession is the only way that a prosecution can be initiated. No matter the case, an employee who is accused of this crime should seek representation immediately. On more than one occasion, we have settled accounting discrepancies without charges being filed on our client. It is always better to keep the case out of the District Attorney's hands than to try and stop the prosecution later.

Mortgage Fraud

Mortgages are substantial loans taken out for a home. Mortgage fraud typically occurs in situations where the borrower lies about his assets, employment or credit, influencing the Mortgagee to loan money. In some situations, the home may be sold several times in a short period of time, with loan money siphoned off each time.

Mortgage fraud reached its peak in 2008, but adapted to economic changes and modifications in lending practices. The total dollar losses attributed to mortgage fraud is unknown, but is estimated to be in the billions. Mortgage fraud is normally committed by those who have experience in the banking and mortgage-related industries such as construction, finance, brokerage, accountants and bank account representatives.

Mortgage fraud can include several different practices. Property or housing fraud, whereby a loan applicant misrepresents him or herself, is one common type of fraud. Another type involves industry professionals falsely inflating property values as well as issuing loans for fictitious properties. There is also an illegal form of property flipping involving phony appraisals and fake loan documents. The government has been keeping a close eye on fraud in property flipping, commercial loans and builder bailout schemes.

Consequences of a Mortgage Fraud Conviction

The consequences of a mortgage fraud conviction are heavy because of the large nature of the loan. Depending on the amount of loss, it can be prosecuted in Federal or State Court and can even result in many years in prison

Accused of Mortgage Fraud?  You Need a Mortgage Fraud Attorney

Facing an investigation or being indicted or charged with mortgage fraud requires the assistance of an experienced mortgage fraud lawyer.

At Chernoff Law, our board certified mortgage fraud attorney Ed Chernoff is well versed in mortgage laws and has represented clients in state and federal courts.

Our number one goal is to win every battle possible and we will stand up to any unfair prosecution we encounter on your behalf. Our mortgage fraud lawyer is standing by now to help you with your case.

Money Laundering

Money Laundering is not typically considered a theft charge. It involves the hiding of criminal proceeds through the use of apparent legal businesses or transactions. Money laundering is usually filed in Federal Court, but the State of Texas has statutes that apply as well.

Money laundering refers to the attempt to conceal or disguise the source of illicitly acquired funds from illegal activities. This is the most basic definition of money laundering, but it can include many different types of practices such as false accounting, tax evasion, creating fictitious cover-companies, drug crimes and trafficking. Essentially anything that turns “dirty” or illegally obtained money into “clean” money with untraceable trails, can be classified as money laundering.

The act of money laundering is punishable both on state and federal levels and requires that attorneys be qualified and well versed in handling cases of this magnitude.

Possible Penalties for Money Laundering

Although a felony in all cases, the severity of the Money Laundering conviction depends of the value of the funds involved. Both State and Federal prosecutors seek prolonged incarceration for money laundering cases. How much depends on the amount of funds laundered. The Federal Sentencing guidelines punish money laundering cases more harshly than other related fraud cases.

Defense for Money Laundering Cases in Houston Requires an Experienced Money Laundering Attorney

Since money laundering cases can be difficult to prove, because of the complexities of the transactions involved, extensive, long-term investigations will most likely take place by state and/or federal prosecutors when they are attempting to convict an individual or organization of this crime. Having solid legal representation through this process is especially important to try and avoid a criminal charge, conviction, civil penalties, fines and substantial prison sentences that can be associated with money laundering.

At Chernoff Law, our experienced criminal defense attorney is board-certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is familiar with the criminal procedures used to try and limit your freedom. We are dedicated to fighting for the legal rights of anyone we represent, and urge you to contact our legal team at once if accused or under investigation at either the state or federal level to obtain a money laundering lawyer.

Contact our firm today to speak to a Houston Theft Lawyer!

Sometimes an employee bears the brunt of a fraud that is actually being perpetrated by someone higher up the chain of command. Sometimes an investment scheme is so complicated that it is presumed criminal when it starts losing money. In all of these instances, the lawyer for the accused must be highly knowledgeable about his client's case. When there is an advance warning that a fraud charge is being investigated, we may be able to prevent an arrest altogether. For an honest, confidential consultation with an aggressive criminal defense theft lawyer regarding any theft or property crime, contact us.

Contact Me Today

Chernoff Law is committed to answering your questions about Theft, Assault, Sex Crimes, Drug Crimes, Federal Crimes, Probation Violation, Murder, DWI/DUI, and Violent Crime law issues in Texas.

I offer a free consultation and I'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact me today to schedule an appointment.