Theft of Trade Secrets: Texas Penal Code §31.05

Texas Criminal Law

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The Texas Theft of Trade Secrets law creates a criminal offense for stealing a trade secret, making a copy of an article representing a trade secret, or communicating or transmitting a trade secret.

But just what is a “trade secret“?

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The Texas legislature codified this criminal offense in Texas Penal Code Section 31.05. The legislature did not update this law in 2023. In fact, this law has not been amended since 1994.

The Penal Code classifies the Texas Theft of Trade Secrets law under Title 7 “Offenses Against Property,” Chapter 31 “Theft.” Learn more about the Texas offense of Theft of Trade Secrets below.

What is the current Texas law about Theft of Trade Secrets?

The current Texas law defines the offense of Theft of Trade Secrets in Penal Code Section §31.05 as follows:[1]

(b) A person commits an offense if, without the owner’s effective consent, he knowingly:

(1) steals a trade secret;

(2) makes a copy of an article representing a trade secret; or

(3) communicates or transmits a trade secret.

What are trade secrets?

The statute defines “trade secrets” as “any part of any scientific or technical information, design, process, procedure, formula, or improvement that has value and that the owner has taken measures to prevent from becoming available to persons other than those selected by the owner to have access for limited purposes.”[2]

How can I be charged with a Theft of Trade Secrets offense in Texas?

You can be charged with Theft of Trade Secrets in Texas if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 31.05(b) as described in the section above have been met.

What is the statute of limitation for Theft of Trade Secrets in Texas?

Theft of Trade Secrets offenses have a three-year limitations period.[3]

What is the penalty for a Texas Theft of Trade Secrets offense?

Theft of Trade Secrets in Texas is punished as a third degree felony.[4]

Can you get probation for Theft of Trade Secrets in Texas?

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows both judges and juries to grant probation for Theft of Trade Secrets, and judges are also allowed to accept deferred adjudication plea deals.[5]

Note, however, that judges may not grant community supervision after a conviction if (1) the defendant used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the felony or immediate flight thereafter and (2) the defendant used or exhibited the deadly weapon himself or was a party to the offense and knew that a deadly weapon would be used or exhibited.[6]

What level of crime is Theft of Trade Secrets in Texas?

The Penal Code classifies the punishment for Theft of Trade Secrets as a third degree felony.

Learn more about the penalty range for this offense in the section above.


^1. Texas Penal Code §31.05. This law is current as of the 88th Legislature Regular Session.^2. Texas Penal Code §31.05(a)(4)^3. See Code of Criminal Procedure 12.01(9)^4. Texas Penal Code §31.05(c)^5. See Chapter 42, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 42A.054, Art. 42A.056, Art. 42A.102 .^6. Art. 42A.054(b), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure


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