By DANIEL RAY
Special to the Herald-Banner
I have noticed more trucks displaying Farm Truck license tags than ever before. What are the requirements that legally allow a person to drive a truck with farm tags? Also, I see landscaping companies using farm tags on their trucks and utility trailers. Is that legal? — Andy, Campbell
There are two separate sets of Texas legal requirements at issue here: one for farm vehicles and one for farm trailers.
The registration fee for farm vehicles costs 50 percent of the amount non-farm registration costs. In order to qualify, the vehicle’s owner must use the vehicle “for commercial purposes only to transport: (1) the person’s own poultry, dairy, livestock, livestock products, timber in its natural state, or farm products to market or another place of sale or processing; (2) laborers from their place of residence to the owner’s farm or ranch; or (3) without charge, materials, tools, equipment, or supplies from the place of purchase or storage to the owner’s farm or ranch exclusively for the owner’s use or for use on the farm or ranch.”
Farm trailers (as well as farm tractors and semitrailers) have slightly different registration requirements. To qualify, those vehicles must weigh less than 34,000 pounds and be used to exclusively transport: “(a) Seasonally harvested agricultural products or livestock from the place of production to the place of processing, market, or storage; or (b) Farm supplies from the place of loading to the farm.”
Your question about landscaping companies could have several different answers depending on the landscaping business’ specific operations. If they use trailers to transport mowers and related equipment only, they might not be able to legally claim the farm trailer exemption. However, they are able to rely on the farm-trailer exemption if they use the trailers to haul plants for landscaping because Texas law recognizes the following as “agricultural products” — “live horticultural products and live nursery stock, including any tree, shrub, vine, cutting, graft, scion, grass, bulb, or bud that is in a growing state and is grown for, kept for, or is capable of propagation and distribution for sale.”
Every time we go to McDonald’s, my mother takes lots of extra packets of Splenda and puts them in her purse for use at home. I asked her about it the other day, and she said Splenda was so expensive that if she bought it she’d have to choose between her prescription arthritis medication and food, and that there aren’t any signs saying she can’t take more than she uses. I can’t argue with that, but it does beg the question — Is it illegal to take more Splenda than you are going to use at the restaurant? — Anonymous, Greenville
Yes. It is theft under a strict interpretation of the Texas Penal Code.
In Texas, a person commits the crime of “theft” if they “appropriate property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property” and they do it “without the owner’s effective consent.” In your mother’s case, the restaurant owners obviously “consent” to her taking the condiments she will use in her in-house dining experience. The restaurant does not intend for her to take “extra” condiments for later use. Therefore, taking those condiments is theft.
It doesn’t matter that there are no signs saying she can’t take extra condiments. There also aren’t signs in the bathroom saying “don’t take unopened rolls of toilet paper.” As with condiments, the restaurant owners expect — and clearly have a right to expect — that customers will use only the toilet paper they need and will not take extra to “save money.”
While theft under $50 is a Class C misdemeanor in most cases, it is unlikely your mother or other condiment-poaching citizens will ever be prosecuted; the County Attorney and District Attorney have more important crimes to handle. However, she should keep in mind that Texas law allows prosecutors to “aggregate” the values of many individual stolen items if they are “obtained in violation of this chapter pursuant to one scheme or continuing course of conduct, whether from the same or several sources.” That means stolen condiments from 20 different restaurants could be rolled into a single offense that could potentially result in jail time or heavy fines.
If you have a brief legal question on any topic, please forward it to Daniel@smrt-law.com.
Daniel Ray is a Greenville, Texas attorney licensed in all Texas courts. His firm, Scott, Money, Ray & Thomas, PLLC, represents the City of Greenville, Hunt County, and many other public and private North Texas entities. His practice emphasis is civil litigation, wills and trusts and real estate.
This article is intended for entertainment and educational purposes as well as to give the reader general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By reading this article you agree that you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the author or publisher. The article should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your area.