Texas Penal Code 31.18 – Cargo Theft
WHAT IS CARGO THEFT IN TEXAS?
The Texas law against cargo theft prohibits conducting, promoting, or facilitating the receipt, possession, concealment, resale, or other disposition of stolen cargo.
- What is “cargo”? Texas Penal Code Section 31.18 defines “cargo” as goods that constitute “a commercial shipment of freight moving in commerce.” “Goods” under the Texas Business and Commerce Code are “all things treated as movable for the purposes of a contract for storage or transportation.”
Cargo is “moving in shipment” if it is at any point between its origin and its final destination. If, for example, a person steals merchandise, or “goods,” from the manufacturing plant, those goods are not “moving in shipment,” because they were stolen from their point of origin.
WHAT IS THE CARGO THEFT LAW IN TEXAS?
Tex. Penal Code § 31.18. CARGO THEFT.
(b) A person commits an offense if the person:
(1) knowingly or intentionally conducts, promotes, or facilitates an activity in which the person receives, possesses, conceals, stores, barters, sells, abandons, or disposes of:
(A) stolen cargo; or
(B) cargo explicitly represented to the person as being stolen cargo; or
(2) is employed as a driver lawfully contracted to transport a specific cargo by vehicle from a known point of origin to a known point of destination and, with the intent to conduct, promote, or facilitate an activity described by Subdivision (1), knowingly or intentionally:
(A) fails to deliver the entire cargo to the known point of destination as contracted; or
(B) causes the seal to be broken on the vehicle or on an intermodal container containing any part of the cargo.
(c) An offense under this section is:
(1) a state jail felony if the total value of the cargo involved in the activity is $1,500 or more but less than $10,000;
(2) a felony of the third degree if the total value of the cargo involved in the activity is $10,000 or more but less than $100,000;
(3) a felony of the second degree if the total value of the cargo involved in the activity is $100,000 or more but less than $200,000; or
(4) a felony of the first degree if the total value of the cargo involved in the activity is $200,000 or more.
. . .
(e) An offense described for purposes of punishment by Subsections (c)(1)-(3) is increased to the next higher category of offense if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the person organized, supervised, financed, or managed one or more other persons engaged in an activity described by Subsection (b).
(f) It is not a defense to prosecution under this section that:
(1) the offense occurred as a result of a deception or strategy on the part of a law enforcement agency, including the use of:
(A) an undercover operative or peace officer; or
(B) a bait vehicle;
(2) the actor was provided by a law enforcement agency with a facility in which to commit the offense or with an opportunity to engage in conduct constituting the offense; or
(3) the actor was solicited to commit the offense by a peace officer, and the solicitation was of a type that would encourage a person predisposed to commit the offense to actually commit the offense but would not encourage a person not predisposed to commit the offense to actually commit the offense.
WHAT IS THE PENALTY CLASS FOR CARGO THEFT IN TEXAS?
The penalty classification for cargo theft depends on the total value of the stolen cargo:
- State jail felony, punishable by 180 days to two years in state jail, if:
- the total value of the stolen cargo is $1,500 or more but less than $10,000;
- Third degree felony, punishable by two to ten years in prison, if:
- the total value of the stolen cargo is $10,000 or more but less than $100,000;
- Second degree felony, punishable by two to 20 years in prison, if:
- the total value of the stolen cargo is $100,000 or more but less than $200,000;
- First degree felony, punishable by five to 99 years or life in prison, if:
- the total value of the stolen cargo is $200,000 or more.
Cargo theft is enhanced to the next highest penalty classification if the person organized, supervised, financed, or managed a theft operation.
WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT RANGE FOR CARGO THEFT IN TEXAS?
The punishment range for cargo theft increases with the total value of the stolen cargo.
- State jail felony, if the total value is $1,500 or more but less than $10,000:
- 180 days to two years in a state jail facility, maximum fine of $10,000;
- Third degree felony, if the total value is $10,000 or more but less than $100,000:
- two to ten years in prison, maximum fine of $10,000;
- Second degree felony, if the total value is $100,000 or more but less than $200,000:
- two to 20 years in prison, maximum fine of $10,000;
- First degree felony, if the total value is $200,000 or more:
- five to 99 years or life in prison, maximum fine of $10,000.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR CARGO THEFT IN TEXAS?
A person charged with cargo theft may be eligible for probation after a conviction, or deferred adjudication without a conviction. The period of community supervision for a state jail felony cargo theft is from two to five years, with the possibility of extending supervision for up to ten years.
For a third degree felony cargo theft charge, a person may be placed on deferred adjudication for up to ten years, or probation for a period between two and five years.
The period of community supervision for first degree felony and second degree felony cargo theft charges may not exceed ten years. A judge may also order up to 180 days in jail as a condition of community supervision on felony cases.
WHAT ARE THE DEFENSES TO CARGO THEFT IN TEXAS?
The statute does not authorize specific defenses to cargo theft. A person accused thereof may attempt to negate one of the elements the State must prove at trial.
WHAT IS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR CARGO THEFT IN TEXAS?
The limitation period for cargo theft is five years.
CARGO THEFT IN TEXAS
Texas law punishes large-scale theft of goods in transit as a felony, and increases the penalty category for the person organizing cargo theft operations.
TEXAS CARGO THEFT COURT CASES
The case law regarding cargo theft in Texas explains the definition of “cargo.”
- In Joe v. State, the defendant arrived at a mattress and box spring manufacturer’s shipping yard, and hooked up his semi-truck to a trailer full of mattresses and box springs. He was approached by the shipping yard supervisor and plant manager, who asked where he was taking the shipment. The defendant left without the trailer, and was charged and convicted of cargo theft.
The defendant argued on appeal the mattresses were not cargo at that time because they had not left the shipping yard, and thus not moving in commerce. The Court of Criminal Appeals determined it was cargo, because the load had been moved to the shipping yard from the factory, its point of origin.
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