Theft by Check in Texas

Just sign on the dotted line, tear, and hand it to the cashier. That’s all you have to do, right? In Texas, theft by check or “Hot Checks” happen everyday by people just like you and me. However, theft is still theft. Whether you’re charged with shoplifting, theft, or theft by check in Texas, it falls under the same umbrella. I understand you’re not great at math. Maybe you slept through most of high school math class? Maybe you never actually learned how to balance a check book? That’s fine, but it can cost you BIG TIME.

What is a Hot Check?

A Hot Check is a check that was written with insufficient funds and an intent to steal. For example, you go to a store to buy brand new furniture and appliances.The amount is $5,000 for all the stuff you want to buy. You only have $3,000.00 in your account. You write the check anyway and take the furniture and appliances.

How much jail time and what kind of fine am I looking at?

Excellent question. Well, under Texas law, it all depends on the total amount of Hot Checks you wrote.

Crime Level                                                                Punishment

  • Class C Misdemeanor $50 or Less –                 $500 fine/No Jail Time
  • Class B Misdemeanor $50-$500 –                     $2,000 fine/180 Days Jail
  • Class A Misdemeanor $500 – $1,500 –              $4,000 fine/1 year Jail
  • State Jail Felony – $1,500 – $20,000 –                 $10,000 fine/6 Months Jail up to 2 years
  • Third Degree Felony – $20,000 – $100,000        $10,000 fine/ 2 years to 10 years
  • Second Degree Felony – $100,000 – $200,000   $10,000 fine/ 2 years to 20 years
  • First Degree Felony – $200,000 and Up –           $10,000 fine/ 5 years to 99 years/Life

How do you tell if it’s a misdemeanor or felony theft by check?

In Texas you can tell by the paperwork you received. Some of the paperwork will list the “offense” and the Penal Code Section or PC Section. This is the specific crime that you are charged with. Often, in your paperwork it will say something like Misdemeanor _____ or Felony 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or State Jail Felony.

What is your defense to a theft by check case?

Well that all depends on the facts of your case. The biggest question is whether you intended to steal. Intent is a major part of the crime. If the State can’t prove you intended to steal, then they won’t be able to prove your case. However, going on a check writing binge without any money in your account over a long period of time, a person can draw the conclusion that you intended to steal! Like I said before, we’re not all accountants but we have to be accountable for balancing our checkbooks! NEVER “Just plead guilty” to ANY THEFT CRIME. Whether it’s a Class C misdemeanor or a First Degree Felony. There are many many future, unexpected and unforeseen consequences of any guilty plea.

What’s going to happen with my Hot Check case?

Normally you will have to repay the person who you wrote the check to. Using the same example as above, you would owe restitution to the victim (the person or business who accepted the check as payment) for the furniture and appliances. Usually, if that’s done then the prosecutor will recommend a dismissal of the charge against you. However, if the facts of your case make it clear that you weren’t just careless, inattentive, or bad at math, they may recommend some type of probation or jail time. Talk to a lawyer before you make any decision. Whether that lawyer is me, or another, just talk to one. It’s your future you’re risking.