Many property-related crimes have a range of offenses, from misdemeanors to felonies.
Owning property is one of the fundamental tenets of the American dream, and once you own property, your right to protect it and do with it as you please is essential. Except for a few exceptions, you have the right to keep other people off your land. You also have the right to refuse to let other people change it in any way. That is why, when someone comes onto your land or interferes with it without permission, or you do the same to another party’s property, criminal charges quickly follow. If you have been charged with a property crime, whether it is a low-level misdemeanor or a serious felony, the best thing you can do is work with an experienced and trusted Houston property crimes lawyer from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett.
Call today at (713) 222-6767.
Texas Property Crimes
Some of the most common Texas property crimes include:
- Arson– You can be charged with arson if you intentionally started a fire that damaged or destroyed property or if you recklessly started a fire that put someone’s life in danger. If only property was harmed, you may face a state jail felony. However, if you caused death or bodily injury, you face a first-degree felony. Learn more about arson and potential defenses and the contact an experienced property crimes lawyer.
- Criminal Mischief– If you intentionally or knowingly damage, destroy, tamper with, or make markings on another person’s property without permission, causing the owner a financial loss, you can be charged with criminal mischief, which may be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the value of the damage and the type of property harmed. Learn more about when you can be charged with criminal mischief and the penalties you face.
- Reckless Damage or Destruction- If you recklessly damage or destroy another person’s property without consent, you can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. When facing this charge, contact experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer Ned Barnett right away.
- Graffiti- If you intentionally and knowingly make markings, such as inscriptions, slogans, paintings, or drawings, on another person’s property without consent with marker, paint, or an engraving device, you can be charged with the crime of graffiti. This is a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the property owner’s financial loss. If you have been charged with graffiti, call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett for help.
- Criminal Trespass– You commit the offense of criminal trespass when you enter or remain on or in the property of another person without consent and you had notice that you were not supposed to enter or had notice you were supposed to leave and failed to do so. This notice may include an oral warning, such as an announcement, or a written warning, like a “No Trespassing” sign. You will typically face a misdemeanor charge for trespassing. Learn more about this offense and how to defend against it.
The Criminal Justice Process
You may be arrested during the commission of the property offense or after a crime has taken place and the police conducted an investigation that pointed to you as a suspect. An initial court appearance within 48 hours of your arrest comes next. During this brief hearing, a magistrate reads your constitutional rights, announces the charges against you, and sets the conditions for your release, including a bail amount.
After your arrest and release from jail, prosecutors must file a formal complaint or obtain an indictment for a grand jury. Complaints are used for misdemeanors and indictments are necessary for felonies. During a grand jury, prosecutors present their evidence to a group of 12 local residents. They determine if there is enough probable cause that you committed the offense to move forward with charges.
Once formal charges are filed, you will receive notice of the date, time, and place of your arraignment. At this hearing, a judge reads the official charges against you, and you must enter a plea. Typically, you will plead not guilty and move forward in working with an attorney.
It may be months or years before your offense goes to trial. During this time, your attorneys will be gathering and analyzing evidence and building you the strongest defense possible under the law. They may also negotiate a plea bargain with prosecutors in an attempt to minimize the consequences of a conviction. However, you do not have to accept a deal. It is your right to defend yourself at trial and to obtain a verdict from a judge or jury. Be sure to understand the Texas criminal court process.
Penalties and Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Conviction
Property crimes can be either misdemeanors or felonies. In fact, certain specific offenses can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on your alleged actions, the amount of property damage, and other aggravating factors. Certain offenses have a significant range in levels, which means you could face anywhere from the lowest Class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony.
The potential penalties for a property crime conviction depend on the level of misdemeanor or felony you face:
- Class C misdemeanor is punishable by a fine up to $500.
- Class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine up to $2,000.
- Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine up to $4,000.
- State jail felony is punishable by between 180 days and 2 years in jail and a fine up to $10,000.
- Third-degree felony is punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
- Second-degree felony is punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
- First-degree felony is punishable by between 5 and 99 years or life in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
However, your punishment for committing a property crime may extend far beyond incarceration and a fine. By obtaining a misdemeanor or felony conviction, you create a permanent criminal record that will impact your life long after you complete your statutory punishment. Some of the most common collateral consequences of a conviction include:
- Difficulty obtaining a job
- Difficulty getting into college
- Difficulty obtaining financial aid, including grants and scholarships
- Ineligibility for or difficulty obtaining a professional license
- Changes to your child custody or visitation schedule
- A denial of your visa, permanent residency, or citizenship application or deportation
- Inability to travel to certain countries, including Canada
- Loss of your gun ownership rights
- Loss of your voting rights for a period of time
Defending Against a Property Crime
If you are being accused of committing a property crime, you must take the charges and the criminal justice system seriously. Even a relatively minor offense, like being caught trespassing on private property late at night, could have a profound effect on your life. Any time you are arrested and charged with a crime, you need to contact a Houston criminal defense attorney who can review your situation and determine how you can defend yourself.
One possible defense to a property crime is that you had permission to be where you were or do whatever you did. For example, if you had, or reasonably believed you had, consent to be on someone else’s property, then you may not have trespassed. Other possible defenses include the police have the wrong person entirely or that there is not enough evidence to prove you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
To discuss these and other potential defense strategies, contact Ned Barnett right away. With more than 30 years of experience, he is able to review your situation, explain your options, and advise you on the strategy that is most likely to obtain you the best possible outcome in your case.
A Houston Property Crime Lawyer Can Help
Being charged with a crime can be eye-opening. Suddenly, your world has changed and now, you must face each day knowing that a conviction will drastically alter your future. It could impact your education, career, and family. However, you do not have to trudge through the criminal justice process with only fear to guide you. By working with an attorney from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, you gain the knowledge, experience, and skills you need to protect your rights and fight for your freedom. Instead of making decisions based on worry or intimidation, you can choose what is right for you based on detailed information and years of experience.