A Loophole in Texas’s Theft of Service Laws Closed
The global pandemic has been wearing away at our psyches and our finances for a long time now. Many families are faced with financial hardships that make it difficult to move forward, and some find themselves facing criminal charges – or the threat of criminal charges – for missing a payment. Fortunately, Texans are better protected from such circumstances than they used to be.
Texas Theft of Service Laws: That Was Then
The theft of service laws in Texas are strict. Many families are currently finding it harder to make ends meet, and some are turning to rent-to-own companies to make the purchases they need for their families more financially manageable (payments are spread out over time). If the primary earner has been furloughed, re-furloughed, let go, has experienced a pay decrease, or has experienced a reduction in hours resulting from the pandemic, it can make keeping up with payments nearly impossible.
In such situations, unscrupulous rent-to-own companies sometimes send police to the door – bearing the threat of criminal charges. Even if the consumer was unaware of the missed payment(s) or did not receive a warning letter from the company, the law used to turn a blind eye and – in essence – said, the law is the law. While this sounds harsh, many Texans endured this kind of treatment in the past. Further, some rent-to-own services are not above continuing to engage in these unscrupulous practices.
This Is Now
Until mid-2019, rent-to-own companies could levy criminal charges against customers who failed to keep up with their payments. This approach was predicated on an outdated law that allowed them to translate failure to respond to a warning letter about missed payments as the customer’s intention of stealing the product being rented to own. Further, the rent-to-own companies in question did not have to bother to prove that the warning letter was even received. In mid-2019, Texas closed this old-fashioned loophole that allowed rent-to-own companies to use police officers like their own personal debt collectors. However, this change does not stop all rent-to-own companies from going too far with their strong-arm tactics.
How the Law Affects You
This shift in the law means all of the following:
Theft of service laws now applies more closely to goods like heavy machinery, some tools, and vehicles. It provides more bite for circumstances involving high-value consumer goods.
Theft of service charges still applies if it is clear the intention is theft (selling a piece of furniture that one is still renting to own, for example).
Providing the rent-to-own company with fraudulent information in the first place can also lead to criminal charges.
An Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Lawyer Is on Your Side
Are you facing a criminal charge? Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a well-respected and skilled criminal defense lawyer who is well equipped to help you obtain a case resolution that supports your rights and best interests. To learn more, please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.