The Texas Penal Code has a “value ladder” for theft. Get yourself accused of stealing:
- Less than $50 = Class C Misdemeanor – max $500 fine
- $50 < $500 = Class B Misdemeanor – max 6 months in jail
- $500 < $1500 = Class A Misdemeanor – max 1 year in jail (but see)
Et cetera, et cetera. Theft of $1500 up to $20,000 is a State Jail Felony and it just keeps on going up and up from there. This makes some sense. After all, stealing a nickel from me somehow seems less egregious than ripping me off for a whole lot of money.
But the Texas Legislature meets every two years, and there’s nothing better for your re-election campaign eighteen months after the session ends than going back home and telling your constituents that you got “Tough on Crime”. So let’s tweak those criminal laws, shall we?
What if someone steals a [Gasp! Fill-in-the-Blank… but it’s not really valued as much as it should be!] and only gets punished as if they stole something with an equivalent monetary value? Why they’d be getting away with something, and goodness knows you Don’t Mess With Texas.
So throughout the years, several extra important things have been super-criminalized in Texas. The prosecutor won’t need to prove the value of the property stolen: if you stole it, extra punishment will come.