Property crimes include many common crimes involving the taking or destruction of someone's personal property. This is also referred to as vandalism. Property crimes run the gamut—from larceny, shoplifting, and criminal mischief to more serious felonies like armed robbery and arson. Although theft crimes focus on stolen goods, offenses like burglary involve criminal trespass. Criminal trespass is unlawful entry with intent to commit a crime.
Property crime charges vary in severity, depending on several factors. These factors include the use of force, the value of the property stolen, or the involvement of a deadly weapon. Injuries sustained during these violent crimes also affect the criminal charges filed. Certain crimes, like burglary, don't require that the offender complete the taking. They only require unlawful entry with the intent to commit a crime. Others need the actual taking of money or property.
Some offenses, such as robbery, require force or violence in the victim's presence. Most property crimes are classified into varying degrees. These degrees depend mostly on the value of stolen items. They also depend on whether there was the use of force or arms in theft-related cases. Actual or potential bodily injury in property crimes also determines the crime charged.
While vandalism is also considered a property crime, this article focuses on property crimes involving the taking of (or intent to take) property, such as burglary and larceny. Below, you'll find more information on specific property crimes.
There are several defenses to the crime of burglary. These defenses may vary depending on whether the charge of burglary is first-degree, second-degree, or third-degree. One of the most common defenses revolves around the absence of criminal intent.
Note that the intended crime does not need to be completed to be guilty of the criminal charge of burglary. Law enforcement only needs to prove that the defendant committed the act with the required criminal intent. They must prove that the defendant entered the structure to commit theft or another crime. This defense potentially rules out any case where the defendant did not form the requisite intent until after entering the structure.
Burglary Penalties and Sentencing
The penalties and sentences for a burglary conviction vary, depending on state criminal law. Burglary charges can be misdemeanors or felonies based on the circumstances. The judge may also issue varying sentences, depending on the nature of the criminal offense. This is in line with state statutes and mitigating or aggravating circumstances. Typically, a burglary conviction carries many incarceration options. These options include:
- Jail time
- Years of prison time
- A large fine
- Court-mandated restitution to the victim
- A lengthy probation period
Can I Be Accused of Stealing Something I Borrowed if I Forget To Return It?
Theft or stealing property requires a clear intent to keep and not return the item. In the absence of such intent, forgetfulness may not result in a theft charge. But you could face charges for unintentionally forgetting to return borrowed items. Forgetfulness can cross the line between borrowed and stolen property. This will depend on the circumstances surrounding the case and the presence or absence of evidence that sheds light on the defendant's intent at the time they came to be in possession of the property.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You
Property crimes vary in severity, from acts like tampering to more serious crimes like robbery. Such crimes can lead to prison sentences and other long-lasting repercussions.
If you're facing charges involving property offenses, it is best to seek the advice of a criminal defense lawyer. They can assist you with navigating the nuances of criminal law. They can provide guidance and present a property crime defense, depending on your case.
In addition, a property crimes lawyer can also help you understand the implications of a property crime conviction on your criminal record. FindLaw has a directory of experienced criminal defense attorneys in every state. Here, you can see their contact details and law office locations.
Disclaimer: Laws and penalties vary in every jurisdiction. Thus, if faced with charges of property crimes involving theft or property damage, it is best to look at your state law and consult a defense attorney who has experience with property crimes.