Texas property crime laws finally catch up with inflation

Calls are growing to reform Washington's “three-strikes” law, which has led to life sentences for some non-violent offenders.

A lot has changed since 1993, not least of which is the value of a dollar, which doesn't stretch quite as far as it did 22 years ago. However, the severity of property crimes in Texas is largely based on a "value ladder" that categorizes offenses based on the dollar-value of items lost or damaged. Until recently, that "value ladder" had not kept up with inflation for the past 22 years. Now, as Fox San Antonio reports, the state has updated the dollar-thresholds for misdemeanor and felony property crimes in the state for the first time since 1993.

Value ladder for property crime

Until recently, a property crime, such as theft, graffitti, and mischief, was considered a felony if the property damaged or stolen was valued at $1,500 or more, a benchmark that was set back in 1993. Likewise, different classes of misdemeanor property crimes were also determined by the value of property stolen or damaged. Items that were worth $50 or less could lead to a Class C misdemeanor, while $50 to $500 items entailed Class B misdemeanor charges. The most serious misdemeanor charge, a Class A, was reserved for items valued at $500 to $1,500.

Because those figures had not kept up with inflation, an unusual situation has developed. Although Texas property crime has decreased since those the above thresholds were established, felony charges for theft have actually risen by 30 percent, according to the Corsicana Daily Sun.

Keeping up with inflation

As a result, Texas was overdue for an update of its property crime "value ladder." The state has finally done just that, with the threshold for a felony property crime now being set at $2,500. For misdemeanors, charges are set as follows: for Class A the range is between $750 and $2,500, for Class B between $100 and $750, and for Class C less than $100. The changes only apply to property crimes that were committed after September 1, 2015.

Those changes could have a dramatic effect on people charged with a property offense. Not only could it mean less or no jail time for some convicted offenders, but it could also have a beneficial effect on their ability to earn a living. A felony conviction, for example, can seriously hamper employment and housing opportunities. Furthermore, updating the values used to categorize property crimes will help the state save money by having fewer people jailed for relatively minor offenses.

Contacting a criminal defense attorney

While sentences for some property crimes have gotten a bit fairer with the above change, the penalties for being convicted of a misdemeanor or felony offense in Texas remain severe. Anybody who has been charged with a crime needs to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced attorney will be able to offer vigorous and dedicated support that may ultimately help lessen the damage caused by a criminal charge or conviction.