R. Todd Bennett, P.C.
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Felony theft charges for Austin swimmer towing $120,000 boat

A 26-year-old Austin man's decision to steal a 44-foot sailboat by swimming away with it in tow may have far reaching consequences following his arrest on felony theft charges. The suspect at first refused to release the $120,000 boat and surrender to police. Police arrested the man after a detective talked him into giving up his efforts to swim with the boat to deeper waters.

The man's troubles began when a harbormaster who called police spotted him. Arriving police officers saw the suspect swimming in a channel with the boat attached to him by a rope. Officers said it appeared as though he was attempting to escape to deeper water but was determined not to give up the boat.

Whether this was a prank or an actual theft, the fact that police and prosecutors are pursuing felony theft charges means this man is facing serious penalties at his sentencing. A felony theft charge conviction can result in incarceration in state prison, probation supervision and substantial monetary fines. A conviction also means the person will have a criminal record that could have a future impact on his ability to obtain employment, obtain a license for some occupations and take advantage of educational funding opportunities.

Representing a person facing theft charges can be a challenge for a criminal defense attorney. The value of the property the person is alleged to have stolen determines the severity of the charges and the penalties a court may impose. The higher the value of the property, the more severe the penalties might be imposed upon conviction. A defense attorney may focus on weaknesses in the prosecution's case in an attempt to have the felony charges reduced to misdemeanors through plea bargaining.

Source: KXAN-TV, "Cops: Swimmer tried to steal sailboat," John Moritz, Sept. 10, 2012

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