In Texas, a juvenile who commits a crime is not classified as a criminal as adults are. A juvenile who commits a crime is considered a delinquent. Unlike adult cases, juvenile cases are governed by the Texas Family Code, and juveniles have a right to a jury trial where the charges against them are found to be true or not true. Also, unlike the adult system, where a jury can impose a sentence, only judges have the authority to determine a juvenile’s punishment. The judge will review the charges against the juvenile and will make a recommendation, one possibility being transferring the case to the adult system where the juvenile will be tried as an adult.
Under Texas law, theft is the unlawful taking of another person’s property with the deliberate intent to permanently deprive them of their ownership of said property.1In order to meet the element of deprivation, the person committing the theft must take another person’s property with the intent to permanently deprive that person of their property.2 The element may also be satisfied if the person committing the theft takes another person’s property and intends to give the property back after the owner pays a reward or ransom.3 Finally, the element may be satisfied if the person committing the theft disposes of another’s property or uses it in a way that will render it unusable for the owner of the property.4
Juveniles charged with theft may be adjudicated for engaging in delinquent conduct. A finding of true of a theft charge will result in delinquency. Theft charges may be prosecuted as a felony or as a misdemeanor depending on the value of the property that was allegedly stolen.5
In Texas, a robbery has been committed when, in the course of committing theft, with the intent to obtain or maintain control of another person’s property, the person causes bodily injury to another, or places another in fear of imminent bodily injury or death.6The person committing the robbery does not need to intend to cause harm or a fear of injury. If the person committing the robbery knows his actions will cause bodily injury or a fear of injury, or if the person acts recklessly, the elements are satisfied under the statute.7 Under the Texas Penal Code, robbery is a second-degree felony.
An aggravated robbery has been committed if a person commits a robbery under § 29.02 of the Texas Penal Code, and he causes serious bodily injury to another, uses or exhibits a deadly weapon, or causes bodily injury, threatens or places another person in fear of imminent bodily injury or death if the person in 65 years of age or older, or if the person is disabled.8
A deadly weapon is not only a gun or a knife in Texas. A deadly weapon is defined as “a firearm or anything manifestly designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting death or serious bodily injury, or anything that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.”9 Under this definition, a fist, baseball bat, and a rock can all qualify as a deadly weapon depending on the intended use. Aggravated robbery is classified as a felony of the first degree.10
Burglary of a Building versus Burglary of a Habitation
Burglary in general is defined as the act of entering a building, or ahabitation, with the intent of committing some kind of crime.11
A building is defined as “an enclosed structure intended for use of occupation as a habitation or for some purpose of trade, manufacture, ornament, or use.”12The structure cannot be open to the public or abandoned at the time the person enters.
A habitation is defined as “a structure or vehicle that is adapted for the overnight accommodation of persons, and includes: each separately secured or occupied portion of the structure or vehicle; and each structure appurtenant to or connected with the structure or vehicle.”13
Force is not a required element for burglary in Texas, as it is in some states. In Texas, simply opening an unlocked window or pushing open a door is enough. Texas also does not require a person to completely enter a structure for a burglary to occur. It is enough for a person to reach a hand into the structure, or to use a tool to illegally enter the structure. The person committing the burglary is required to have the intent to commit some sort of crime. If there is no intent at the time the person enters the structure, then the crime of burglary has not been committed, and the crime of illegal entry or criminal trespass has occurred instead.
Burglary of a Vehicle
Burglary of a vehicle occurs when a person, without the consent of the owner, breaks into or enters a vehicle or any part of a vehicle with the intent to commit a crime.14 The element of entry is satisfied by any part of the body, or an object connected with the body, such as a tool, entering the vehicle.15
Burglary of a Vehicle may be charged as a felony or misdemeanor depending on the criminal history of the juvenile, and the nature of the vehicle which was entered.16
The crime of burglary is a very specific concept; just by virtue of entering – without any committed crime – an individual can be prosecuted for burglary. For example, if an individual broke a lock or broke down a door with the intent of stealing a computer but left the scene without taking anything, that person could still be charged with burglary. Such a scenario is open to numerous questions of intent and entry, which is why it is vital to collaborate with an experienced juvenile defense attorney, as they can help argue the facts sensibly and delicately.
Vandalism, or deliberate behavior aimed at destroying, altering, or defacing property that belongs to another individual, is treated similarly to and can be considered in conjunction with a burglary or theft charge. Under Texas law, vandalism is treated as criminal mischief.17 Those who intentionally or knowingly damage or tamper with another person’s property are guilty of criminal mischief.18
Punishment for criminal mischief is congruent to the seriousness of the crime, whereby the value of the property involved is proportional to the severity of punishment.19 Similar to burglary, vandalism brings with it questions pertaining to intent. It depends on the circumstances, which, again, points to the importance of having an experienced and informed attorney by your side.
Law of Parties
Under the law of parties, one individual can be held criminally responsible for the actions of others.20 The statute designates all people who participate in a crime as “parties” to the crime, which makes everyone involved criminally responsible for the commission of the offense. There are three situations in which a person may be held criminally responsible for the criminal behavior or others.
Cause or help an innocent person to engage in criminal activity
Intentionally or attempt to promote, help, encourage, direct or solicit others to commit a crime
Have a legal duty to prevent a crime from occurring and you purposely promote it, assist in committing it, or fail to make any reasonable efforts to stop it from occurring.
This law is very important to know; you may be opening yourself to criminal responsibility based on the actions of your friends. It is not a defense to say you did not commit a crime. You can be held criminally responsible.
Are you or is your child facing a juvenile charge for one of these crimes in Texas? You need an experienced juvenile defense attorney on your side. Rick Cofer has years of experience defending juveniles charged with theft, burglary and vandalism. Call The Law Office of Rick Cofer today at (512) 200-3801 or contact us through the online form for help.