That’s Just How We Roll

Until recently, Texas Penal Code § 31.03 provided that theft is “a state jail felony if,” among other things, “the value of the property stolen is less than $20,000 and the property stolen is insulated or noninsulated tubing, rods, water gate stems, wire, or cable that consists of at least 50 percent: (i) aluminum; (ii) bronze; or (iii) copper.” But the new statute deletes the text from “insulated” to “50 percent,” so that the new version now makes theft a felony when “the value of the property stolen is less than $20,000 and the property stolen is … (i) aluminum; (ii) bronze; (iii) copper; or (iv) brass.”


This is not the first time that the Texas Legislature has incompetently written a penal statute. It won’t be the last time. Texas legislators are, after all, mostly products of Texas’s public education system, and most of them were highly stupid to begin with. When the Texas Legislature manages to get it right, it’s the exception rather than the rule. Sometimes it even passes statutes intending to do one thing but doing the exact opposite.

Yes, it really is a felony to steal an aluminum can in Texas. And yes, some Texas prosecutor will file felony charges against someone for stealing an aluminum can (keep an eye on John Bradley). The defendant might plead guilty to a misdemeanor to avoid the felony (the general point of overcharging), but if he goes to trial, he’d better hope for a jury that knows about nullification, because if he’s convicted, he’s screwed. No court of appeals in Texas is going to disregard the plain language of the statute, no matter how ludicrous. Ludicrous is pretty much par for the course.

7 responses to “That’s Just How We Roll”

  1. Of course, unless the scoundrel steals Reynolds Wrap (and even then), the state should have to dig out a metallurgist to testify to the actual chemical makeup of the stuff. I certainly wouldn’t stipulate.

  2. I think what ultimately horrifies me is that no one in the legislature is going to find out about this and go “Oh my God! Someone could get hurt!! We’ve got to fix this right away!” It’s only people going to jail. No reason to hurry.

  3. All the better to feed the for-profit prison slave system with the newly-homeless caught collecting felony quantities of pop cans for recycling.

    Strangely, this actually gives me hope. It’s solid evidence of the boundless incompetence in government.

    Or would you rather have a competent tyranny?

    Always look on the bright side. And put down that can, quickly!

  4. How do you steal an aluminum can? If it’s empty, it’s trash. If it is closed, it is the product inside. But I love the notion, and I will leave the machinations up to John Bradley.

    Thanks for the alert to this comical-if-it-weren’t-for-the-John-Bradley’s piece of legislation. I plan to file criminal complaints against police and prosecutors who steal aluminum cans.

    There are courses in law schools on legislative drafting. Are our reps hiring only the children of their contributors to do writing and research?

  5. One local news station grabbed this story and told the general public that it’s now a felony to steal 1 penny–since it’s made out of copper (or brass, I forget). They talked to a prosecutor who “assured” the reporter there was no way he would abuse the law. And you’re right about the appellate courts not overturning the plain wording of the statute–I learned that when they let the state add the defendant’s own blood to the drug as an “adulterant or dilutant”—-Keep tellin’ it like it is, brother

    • Adulterants and dilutants law is ludicrous. Dump the meth in the toilet to get rid of it when the cops come, and they seize the toilet water and count its entire mass as meth.

      • Yep. And the 400 MICRO-gram dose of LSD on a 500 MILLI-gram stamp? You guessed it. 500mg of acid.

        The puritanism of it all sickens me the most. Despite the fact that most liver transplants are the end result of acetaminophen toxicity, the pious thugs continue to insist on diluting all manner of perfectly nice opiates with the wretched stuff. On the odious theory that it serves’em right if they destroy their livers by being drug addicts.

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