14 January
Peveto Law in Criminal Defense

Which of the Following is a Crime Against Property?

People commit property crimes in Texas every 41 seconds. Burglary and vehicle theft are most common, but several specific crimes fall under the category of “crime against property.” Texas law (Penal Code Title 7, Chapter 28) considers “offenses against property” to involve any real property, tangible or intangible personal property severed from land, or anything of monetary value.

The intentional destruction of another person’s property is considered a misdemeanor, but could be elevated to a felony if it meets the definition of a “hate crime”; if weapons are involved; if the property is a church, school, or federal building; if the crime disrupts public utility service, communication equipment, livestock containment, or federally regulated game; or if the loss is greater than $2,500 in damage.

A wide range of criminal offenses constitute “a crime against property,” including the following:

1. Criminal Mischief

According to §28.03, criminal mischief is a broad term to describe the “willful tampering, damaging, or marking up” of personal property. Graffiti (§28.08) and Reckless Damage or Destruction (§28.04) are similar statutes included under the umbrella of criminal mischief.

Penalties depend upon how much damage has been caused:

  • $500 fine – For Class C Misdemeanor losses less than $100, causing substantial inconvenience.
  • $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail– For Class B Misdemeanor of losses between $100-$750. 
  • $4,000 fine and 1 year in jail – For Class A Misdemeanor of losses between $750 and $2,500.
  • $10,000 fine and 2 years in jail – For State Jail Felony of losses between $2,500 and $30,000.

Common defenses to criminal mischief include insufficient evidence to convict, owner consent of the markings, damage done to the defendant’s property, accidental damage, or false identity.

The prosecution must prove that the defendant acted with purpose, knowing that their act damaged or tampered with another person’s property. Common defenses to criminal mischief are a mistake of fact or accident. Without proof of intent, you can be charged with reckless damage or destruction, which occurs when one recklessly damages or destroys another’s property without consent.

2. Vandalism

Vandalism in Texas includes any willful destruction, alterations, or defacement to the property of another. Actions may include spray painting, egging, keying, breaking windows, graffiti art, slashing tires, defacing park benches, drilling holes, kicking down street signs, or physically smashing a person’s property. In addition to paying fines or spending time in jail, a person could be compelled to perform appropriate restitution to restore the value of the damaged property and spend a significant period on probation.

A criminal defense attorney will look at ways to poke holes in the various elements of a vandalism charge:

  • Was there physical damage? Sometimes we can argue down the estimated value of the damage or argue that the damage itself is not, in fact, permanent. We could posit that the “damage” does not “destroy” the property, nor does it prevent it from functioning properly.
  • Who owned the property? If the property you damaged was your own– or, was in some way, co-owned by you– it cannot be considered vandalism.
  • Did you have permission? The charges can be dropped if you received prior permission from the property owner.
  • Were your acts intentional? Vandalism must be committed with intent. You cannot accidentally damage property and be charged with this type of crime. 

3. Burglary

Theft describes the actual stealing of property, but the crime of burglary is, under Texas Penal Code § 30.01, when a person enters a habitation or a building with the intent to commit felony, theft, or assault.

Penalties for burglary include fines up to $10,000 and:

  • Six months to 2 years in jail for a State Jail Felony.
  • Two to 20 years in prison for a Second Degree Felony.
  • Five years to life in prison for a First Degree Felony.

Intent is the major point of contention for a burglary case. Prosecutors must prove that there was an intent to commit a crime “beyond a reasonable doubt” to convict. Pleading the case down to a “breaking and entering” criminal trespass charge would yield a lesser sentence. Cases of mistaken identity or lack of evidence can also be used as a defense for burglary.

4. Breaking & Entering

Otherwise known as criminal trespass, breaking and entering falls under Texas Penal Code § 30.05. To be convicted of criminal trespass, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant entered or remained on another person’s property without consent and had notice that entry was forbidden.

Punishments for breaking and entering in Texas include:

  • Fine up to $500 for Class C Misdemeanor if there are no other aggravating factors.
  • Fine up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail for Class B Misdemeanor on agricultural or protected land.
  • Fine up to $4,000 and up to one year in jail for Class A Misdemeanor if the land was a habitation or shelter, a Superfund site, a critical infrastructure facility, or while carrying a deadly weapon. 

Defenses often revolve around the idea of “consent” or proof that the defendant had reasonable knowledge that the property was off-limits.

5. Arson

Arson, under Texas Penal Code §28.01, involves deliberately setting off an explosion or starting a fire with the intent to destroy property. Fires set intentionally are the most common form of arson, but a person can also be charged with arson if they are manufacturing a controlled substance, causing the reckless burning of the surrounding structure. Sentencing depends upon the intent, the amount of damage done, and the bodily injury or death that results.

Punishments include a fine of up to $10,000 and:

  • 180 days to two years in prison for a State Jail Felony.
  • Two to 10 years in prison for a Third Degree Felony.
  • Two to 20 years in prison for a Second Degree Felony.
  • Five years to life in prison for a First Degree Felony.

One acceptable defense is if the fire was part of a controlled burning program, or if the defendant obtained written authorization before starting the fire. Other defenses of mistaken identity or limited evidence may also apply here. Since arson is a crime of intent, a savvy defense lawyer will likely seek ways to prove the arson was accidental or unintentional.

Were You Charged With A Crime Against Property in Texas?

Penalties for crimes against property range from a fine of $500 for a Class C Misdemeanor to a fine of up to $10,000 and 99 years in state prison for a First Degree Felony. Having an experienced defense lawyer working for you is wise if you hope for any ounce of leniency from the courts. Contact Peveto Law for your free consultation with a criminal defense attorney in Texas.