According to estimates, about 140 million traffic cones are used throughout the world. Snatching a traffic cone might seem like an unusual theft. Many people who get caught up in the thrill of stealing a traffic control device are usually playing a prank. About 1 million cone-stealing thieves are caught in the U.S. annually.
However, there are still penalties for stealing a traffic cone – even if someone thinks it’s a harmless dare or joke. If you are caught stealing, contact a criminal defense lawyer in Austin to discuss your charges.
Before we review the law about traffic cones, it’s important to know the definition of theft. The law in the Lone Star State states that theft is the unlawful taking of another party’s property.
So, whether you are accused of taking a piece of candy, a traffic cone or sign, or something much larger, like a car, you’re accused of depriving another party of their property and can face theft charges.
Texas law establishes the charges and punishments for theft based on the value of what was stolen. For instance, if the value of the stolen property is under $2,500, the guilty party is facing a misdemeanor charge. If the worth of the stolen item surpasses this amount, then the accused can face a felony.
Relevant theft charges are generally as follows:
Even a misdemeanor is a serious matter, as a theft conviction can go on your permanent record. You always want to discuss any charges with a criminal defense lawyer, no matter what degree of charge you face.
When you are arrested for stealing a traffic cone, the charges you might face depend on the type of cone in question. Some cones are as inexpensive as $70 or so, but these are usually not the ones used by construction companies or the TxDOT. Those cones might each cost $200 to $300, which bumps the charges up to a Class B misdemeanor. Penalties for a conviction can include up to 180 days in jail and a $ 2,000 fine.
If you are accused of stealing multiple cones or a traffic barrel, it can be more serious. The cost of multiple cones can exceed $750, and most traffic barrels are worth around $1000. This means you can face Class A misdemeanor charges, which come with a possible one year in jail and fines up to $4000.
In addition to possible probation, fines, or even time in jail, a theft conviction can come with many collateral consequences that affect your life. Some employers will not hire anyone with a theft conviction – even a misdemeanor. Theft convictions can also disqualify you from careers that involve trust or handling valuable items.
When defending a traffic cone theft, a criminal defense lawyer considers intent. The criminal intent element for many Texas crimes means a prosecutor must show you intended to remove a cone permanently and deprive the party of the use of the cone. If you were just moving the cone when the police saw you, your lawyer can argue you did not intend to deprive the owner of their property. By challenging the intent element, your attorney can try to beat the charges.
Even if it is obvious you intended to steal the cone, your attorney can ensure it is valued correctly for the sake of charges and penalties. Prosecutors might overvalue an item to wrongfully increase charges, and your attorney can challenge this.
Stealing a traffic cone can affect how employers view you and how you’re treated personally and professionally. What may be deemed as a harmless joke can turn into a very serious and costly matter over time.
To obtain the most positive outcome possible in your case, you need to contact a criminal defense attorney. In the Austin area, contact the Law Office of David D. White, PLLC. The sooner you speak to our firm, the sooner we can begin planning your legal defense and strategy.