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Petroleum theft – More than swiping fuel from a gas station

On Behalf of | Oct 19, 2023 | Criminal Defense

As of 2022, Texas accounted for 42% of America’s crude oil production and 27% of natural gas production. It goes without saying that crude oil and natural gas production is one of the biggest industries for the state.

But with a large industry comes opportunities for crime. It’s not unusual to hear news about thefts occurring in oil fields, with thieves stealing not just crude oil from the reserves of others but also drilling and storage equipment.

In Texas, it’s a crime to steal petroleum products. What sort of penalties await those convicted of the offense?

Stealing from reserves and tapping into a pipeline are illegal

Per Texas law, it’s against the law for a person to appropriate a petroleum product intending to deprive the original owner. While the law applies to persons attempting to make off with stolen motor fuel from gas stations, it also prohibits thieves from stealing directly from petroleum product producers.

The law prohibits the following actions:

  • Possessing, removing, receiving, purchasing, selling, or concealing petroleum products from its owner without their consent.
  • Creating a connection with, or drilling a hole, or tapping into a pipeline or tank used to store a petroleum product.

The law defines a “petroleum product” as any product involving crude oil, natural gas or condensate.

The penalties

A violation of the law is punishable according to the value of the product stolen or misappropriated. The corresponding conviction and penalties per value stolen are:

  • Less than $10,000 of petroleum product appropriated: This is a state jail felony, which carries a prison sentence of up to two years.
  • $10,000 or more, but less than $100,000: An offense involving this amount is a felony of the third degree. A conviction leads to up to 10 years of prison time.
  • $100,000 or more, but less than $300,000: This is a felony of the second degree, which leads to up to 20 years of prison time.
  • $300,000 or more: A conviction for this first-degree felony offense carries a life prison sentence or a term not more than 99 years.

Petroleum theft is a serious offense that’s prosecuted as a felony, even at the lowest level. Those facing charges shouldn’t underestimate what a conviction leads to and should plan for their defense accordingly.