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The Difference Between Burglary and Burglary of a Motor Vehicle in TX

Cars, trucks, and other motor vehicles make tempting targets for break-ins. It makes sense because these high-priced items are left unattended, can easily be entered, and often have many valuable things inside to steal.

If you find the call to break into a vehicle far too tempting, you can be in the unfortunate position of facing theft charges in Texas. However, the kind of theft charges you can face is something to consider.

In Texas, the penalties a person convicted of breaking into a car can face differ from those in other theft situations. That’s why everyone needs to understand what the laws in Texas say about breaking into cars and burglarizing them.

A Tale of Two Texas Burglaries

There is a distinction under Texas law between burglary and the burglary of a motor vehicle. While both actions may include breaking, the penalties faced by the defendant are pretty separate.


A burglary occurs when a person enters a building or dwelling without the occupant’s consent.

The sentence for burglary is often a state jail felony. It could be upgraded to a felony in the first or second degree if the dwelling or building entered was to commit a more violent act other than theft, such as assault.

Burglary of a Motor Vehicle

In Texas, burglary of a motor vehicle occurs when a person enters a vehicle without the consent of the operator or owner, intending to commit another crime, such as theft.

It is a misdemeanor if you are found guilty of this crime. There are some exceptions to this:

1) Anyone with two or more previous guilty verdicts for burglary of a motor vehicle, or

2) if the vehicle burglarized was a railcar.

In those situations, a state jail felony may get charged.

In circumstances where a vehicle is set up for use overnight, such as a camper, breaking into the vehicle would be considered burglary, and the penalties would more closely align with that crime.

A Deeper Dive into Houston TX Burglary and Burglary of a Motor Vehicle

A Deeper Dive into TX Burglary and Burglary of a Motor Vehicle

It’s essential to understand the actions that constitute breaking into a motor vehicle and can land you with burglary of a motor vehicle charges in our state. Perhaps one of the most vital things to understand is that you don’t have to force your way into the vehicle to get charged with this offense.

Sure, you can break a window or pick the lock of the vehicle, but even opening the door of an unlocked car can be considered burglary of a motor vehicle. The point is that you are entering the vehicle without the owner’s consent.

You also need not fully enter the car to be charged. Just leaning in an open window to swipe something of value from the inside is enough to constitute this crime.

Finally, perhaps most importantly, you don’t need to steal anything to get charged. You need the intent to do so for a successful prosecution.

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