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What Is Federal Theft?


You might think that the federal government has better things to do than prosecute people for stealing, but you would be mistaken.  Minor incidents of theft usually end up in state court, whether it is misdemeanor retail theft, also known as shoplifting, to more serious theft offenses, such as stealing a car in Dallas and then trying to resell it in Fort Worth.  When the crime involves more than one state, or when it involves places and items of property that are under federal jurisdiction instead of that of the state, though, theft can be a federal crime.  A conviction for federal theft can mean a sentence in federal prison, which means that your family might have to travel out of state to visit you while you are serving your sentence.  If you are facing federal criminal charges for theft, contact a Federal theft crimes lawyer.

When Texas Defendants Face Theft Charges in Federal Court

The legal definition of theft is any incident in which a defendant takes an item of property without the consent of the item’s legal owner.  In general, theft is a less serious offense than crimes like robbery, burglary, and fraud, in which the victim suffers other harms in addition to being deprived of property.  The penalties for theft vary according to the value of the items stolen.

These are some scenarios when the courts can prosecute theft as a federal crime:

·   ​Failing to deposit money – This charge applies if someone, usually an employer but not always, gives you money and asks you to deposit the money in a bank account, but instead, the money disappears.

·   ​Misuse of public funds – This charge applies if you are a public sector employee and you spend some of it without your supervisors authorizing you to do so.  The charge of misuse of public funds carries a sentence of 10 years in federal prison, even if the amount of public money you spent without permission was small.

·   ​Theft of property during interstate commerce – Almost any crime, including theft, can be prosecuted in federal court if the defendant crossed state lines in the course of committing the crime.  Theft of property during interstate commerce refers specifically to stealing money or merchandise that was in transit from one state to another for commercial purposes, such as stealing consumer electronics from the trailer of a truck at a truck stop.

·   ​Theft of public property – The penalties for theft of public property depend on whether the stolen property was greater than or less than $1,000.  The maximum penalty for stealing a stop sign is one year in federal prison, but the maximum penalty for stealing a fire engine is ten years in federal prison.

Likewise, any theft that occurs on Native American tribal land is a federal crime.  Some theft crimes committed online can also be tried in federal court

Contact the Law Office of Patrick J. McLain, PLLC About Charges of Theft

A criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are being charged with a theft crime in federal court. Contact the Law Office of Patrick J. McLain, PLLC in Texas to discuss your case.

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