If you commit a property crime in California, you may face felony or misdemeanor charges. The conviction will depend on your criminal record and the severity of the crime. If you illegally receive someone’s property, you may face the charges depending on its value. You may also face charges depending on how you acquired the property. If you destroy another person’s property, the penalties and charges will depend on how badly the alleged property is damaged and the crime’s location. You may face devastating consequences if you are guilty of property crime in California. Therefore, you should seek legal counsel as soon as possible after an accusation of property crime in California. At Orange County Criminal Lawyer, we provide practical and highly customized representation to our clients. Therefore we will help you create a convincing defense to fight your criminal charges.
Property Crimes Under California Law
There are several property crimes under California law. The charges for these crimes come with severe penalties, which include hefty fines and imprisonment. In California, the leading property crimes include:
Arson - California PC 451
Arson is a crime that involves a malicious and intentional setting of fire to any structure, forestland, or property. This crime is charged under California’s PC 451, and it is a felony for any person to carry out arson to any property in California. There are many types of arsons under California law, but they revolve around malicious infliction of injuries and destroying property. If the prosecutor accuses you of arson, he or she must prove that:
- You set fire on a structure, forestland, or property
- You acted willfully and maliciously
The crime of arson is severe according to California law due to its deadly nature, and you could face hefty penalties and jail terms if you are found guilty. According to PC 451, the penalties depend on the type of property burned and whether a person sustained a burn injury or not. If you willfully and maliciously carry out arson, you could face the following penalties:
- If the malicious arson causes a personal property to burn, you could face a jail term of 16 months, two, or three years
- If the malicious arson causes forestland or structure to burn, you could face a jail term of two, four, or six years
- If the malicious arson causes great bodily injuries, you could face a jail term of five, seven, or nine years
- If the malicious arson causes an inhabited property or an inhabited structure to burn, you could face a jail term of three, five, or eight years
However, in most cases, investigations on arson in California may take long because the evidence may burn in the fire. The investigation may require sophisticated chemical analysis to come up with substantial evidence. This is the only way to determine whether the arson was intentional or accidental.
It can be easy to identify and charge a suspect if witnesses saw the suspect’s property being burned. If all the arson evidence relates to the suspect, the police may arrest and charge them with the crime. You may face a strike on your record under California’s Three Strike Law if you are convicted of a felony.
If you face arson charges in California, you may seek a criminal defense attorney’s assistance to fight your charges. The defenses you may employ include:
- Insufficient evidence - the prosecutor should not charge you with arson without sufficient evidence to prove that you committed it.
- Mistaken identity or false allegations - you should not suffer, yet you didn’t commit the crime. Cases of false accusations and mistaken identity are common in criminal investigations.
- You did not carry out arson - another person could have committed the arson.
- It was accidental - you can point out that the arson was not intentional but accidental.
Trespassing - California PC 602
Under California law, it is unlawful to enter someone’s property without their consent to damage their property. Under California’s PC 602, you may face trespass charges if you unlawfully enter someone’s building, land, or other property.
It’s unlawful to enter someone’s property without their consent if the signage prohibiting trespass is visible. It’s also illegal to damage, remove, or destroy any sign or fence that marks someone’s property boundary. If you enter someone’s property intending to disrupt business activities, you may face trespassing charges. You may also face trespassing charges if you enter another person’s property without permission and refuse to leave even if you are asked to do so.
If the prosecutor accuses you of trespass under PC 602, he or she must prove the following elements:
- You interfered with another person’s property rights by causing damage.
- You had a specific intention of interfering with another person’s property when you entered.
- You willfully entered another person’s property.
In California, trespass charges can be filed as felonies, misdemeanors, or infractions. Under California’s PC 602, most trespass crimes are misdemeanors. If you are guilty of a misdemeanor, you could face a fine of $ 1,000, sentence of up to six months in county jail, or misdemeanor summary probation. You could also face a penalty of up to one year in county jail if you refuse to leave another person’s building even after being requested to do so.
Infraction trespass is charged under California’s PC 602.8. under this statute, you are guilty of infraction trespass if:
- You enter another person’s land willfully without permission.
- The land is fenced or has caution signs at intervals of not less than three miles.
If you are found guilty of infraction trespass, you could face a fine of $ 75 for a first crime on the land, and $ 75 for the second crime for the same land. A third crime on the same land could amount to a misdemeanor trespass charges.
If you commit aggravated trespass where you threaten to cause physical harm to someone, enter your workplace, or home without consent, you could be charged with felony trespass. You could face a jail term of 16 months, two, or three years under this charge.
However, you may create a good defense with your attorney’s help if you are accused of trespassing. You may challenge trespassing charges as follows:
- You were not aware that you had no permission to access the property if there were no caution signs.
- You did not have an intention to cause damage to the property.
- You had a right to enter the property.
If you present your argument this way, the charges against you could be dismissed or reduced.
Vandalism - California PC 594
Under California’s PC 594, vandalism refers to an act of maliciously damaging, defacing, or destroying another person’s property. If you deface another person’s property or unlawfully write your name on wet concrete in a public place, you could be guilty of vandalism. It also applies when one party of married persons destroys property in the house they own together. Vandalism is a commonly prosecuted crime in California. Harsh penalties and sentences are imposed on vandalism offenses to prohibit individuals from destroying public and private properties. Vandalism convictions have severe consequences such as jail terms and hefty fines, among other punishments. If the prosecutor accuses you of vandalism, he or she must prove the following elements:
- The value of destruction or damage was less than $ 400 in a misdemeanor charge or $ 400 or more in a felony charge.
- You owned the property with another person, or you did not own it.
- You defaced the property with graffiti, or you destroyed property maliciously using other inscribed material.
The penalties for vandalism, according to California law, depend on the value of damage as follows:
- If you destroy the property amounting to $ 400 or more, you could face a fine of $ 10,000 maximum and a sentence of one year in county jail.
- If you destroy the property valued between $ 400 and $ 10,000, you could face a fine of $ 50,000 maximum and a jail term of one year.
- If you destroy the property amounting to $ 400 maximum, you could face a fine of $ 1,000 and a sentence of one year in county jail.
If you are a repeat offender of vandalism, you could face enhanced charges. You may receive gang enhancements if you commit vandalism to benefit street gang members. You could face hefty fines and lengthy jail terms.
If the offender is a juvenile or a first-time offender, they may face an alternative sentence. You can avoid a jail term if you face an alternative sentence. For instance, you could receive probation rather than a jail term. Under California law, if you receive vandalism probation, you must fulfill the following conditions:
- You have to carry out community service such as cleaning and repairing destroyed properties.
- Keeping damaged property or another property graffiti-free for one year
- Undergoing counseling
- Stop driving for two years.
On the other hand, you may challenge vandalism charges with a competent criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can argue as follows:
- You did not commit vandalism.
- You are a victim of mistaken identity or falsely accused.
- The police misinterpreted the surveillance camera’s images.
- Insufficient evidence
- Negotiate a plea bargain
Burglary California PC 459
California PC 459 defines burglary as the act of accessing someone’s commercial or residential building to commit theft or a felony. Burglary is a complicated offense that authorities severely prosecute under California law. Burglary crimes have serious consequences for perpetrators. If you are guilty of burglary, you may face a jail term and hefty fines. The offense may fall under petty theft or grand theft. If the prosecutor accuses you of burglary, he or she must provide sufficient evidence that:
- You intended to commit a felony or theft at the time you entered a building
- You accessed the building outside working hours
- The amount of the property you stole or intended to steal was more than $ 950
- You accessed a locked vehicle or building
As long as you access a vehicle or a building to commit burglary, you may be guilty under California law. You might face burglary charges even if you did not commit the actual crime. Under California’s PC 459, the punishment for burglary depends on whether the criminal charges are first-degree or second-degree. You may face felony charges if you commit the first-degree burglary. You could therefore face formal felony probation, a sentence of two, four, or six years in state prison, or a fine of up to $ 10,000.
According to PC 459, it’s a wobbler for any person to commit second-degree burglary in California. You could face a felony or a misdemeanor charge depending on the discretion of the prosecutor. The punishment for a felony second-degree burglary conviction includes a jail sentence of 16 months, two or three years in county jail, felony probation, or a fine of up to $ 10,000. You may face summary misdemeanor probation, a sentence of one year in county jail, or a fine of $ 1000 if you are guilty of second-degree burglary as a misdemeanor.
However, you can fight your burglary charges by presenting the following arguments in court:
- Lack of intent
- No access to the building
- Consent by the owner of the property to take it
- A false accusation or mistaken identity
- The police misinterpreted the surveillance camera’s images.
- Negotiate a plea bargain
- No sufficient evidence
Petty Theft California PC 484a and 488
California’s PC 484a and 488 defines petty theft as an act of taking someone’s property without their permission to deprive him or her of the property. You may commit petty theft if you deny someone a significant portion of their property and its enjoyment. Petty theft may also involve depriving someone of his or her property physically. Petty theft is a lesser offense compared to a grand theft offense that involves stealing property that amounts to $ 950 or more.
You may face petty theft charges under California law if you steal property amounting to $ 950 or less. You may also face grand theft charges if you steal motor vehicles, firearms, or other specified items, even if the stolen property is $ 950 or less. If the prosecutor accuses you of petty theft, he or she must prove the following elements:
- You committed a theft offense.
- The value of the property you stole did not exceed $ 950
- You intended to keep the property away from the rightful owner, denying him or her enjoyment or a significant portion of it.
- You intended to deprive the property’s rightful owner of its use.
In California, shoplifting cases are forms of petty theft. Under California law, petty theft crime is a misdemeanor. You may face misdemeanor probation for three years if you are guilty of petty theft. You may also face a six-month maximum sentence in county jail and a fine of up to $ 1000 maximum. The penalties you may face depend on the severity of the case. The punishment you receive may also depend on the value of the property stolen.
If you have prior convictions of certain theft offenses as provided under California law, you may face enhanced petty theft charges. Prior convictions that may lead to enhanced petty theft charges include carjacking, burglary, robbery, grand theft auto, and grand theft. If the prosecutor fails to prove that you took another person’s property intending to steal it, you can always fight petty theft charges. Some of the defenses you may employ include:
- The property you took belongs to you.
- You had the owner’s permission to take the property.
- You were absent-minded
- You took the property intending to pay for it.
Grand Theft - California PC 487a
The California PC 487a defines the crime of grand theft. Under California law, stealing some properties often as grand theft regardless of the property’s value. Grand theft can be in the form of larceny, false pretense, trick, or embezzlement. If the prosecutor accuses you of grand theft by larceny, he or she must prove that:
- You moved or kept the property
- The value of the property stolen exceeded $ 950
- You intended to take the property away from the rightful owner
- You took the property without the owner’s consent
- You took another person’s property
If the prosecutor accuses you of grand theft by pretense, he or she must prove that:
- The property you stole was worth more than $ 950
- The owner let you have his or her property because he or she trusted your pretense or representation
- You used pretense to persuade the property owner to let you possess and own the property
- You knowingly and intentionally deceived a property owner by pretense
If the prosecutor accuses you of grand theft by trick, he or she must prove that:
- The property stolen was more than $ 950
- The owner did not intend to transfer ownership of the property to you
- You kept the property for a long time
- You intended to take the property permanently from the owner
- The owner allowed you to possess the property because you used deceit or fraud
- You obtained the property you knew belonged to another person
If the prosecutor accuses you of grand theft by embezzlement, he or she must prove that:
- The property you stole was worth over $ 950
- You intended to deprive the property of the owner’s use
- You fraudulently used the property for your benefit
- The owner gave you the property because he or she trusted you
If you steal aquacultural products, animals like horses, vehicles, and some farm products, you may face grand theft charges. If you steal property amounting to $ 950 or less, you may face misdemeanor charges under California law. Misdemeanor charges amount to a fine of up to $ 1000 maximum and a jail term of six months maximum. You may also face felony charges if you commit grand theft for property worth $ 950 or more. If you are charged with a felony, you may face a longer sentence of up to three years in state prison. You may face a jail term of up to one year and a fine of up to 5,000 if you commit a grand theft involving a firearm.
You can employ legal defenses to fight grand theft charges, depending on the circumstances of your case. Some of the defenses include:
- The property in question is legally yours.
- You did not intend to steal the property.
- You took the property by mistake.
Robbery - California PC 211
The California PC 211 defines robbery as taking someone’s property by fear or force against their will. If the prosecutor accuses you of robbery, he or she must prove the following elements:
- You intended to deprive the owner of his or her property permanently when you used fear or force to take it
- You used force or fear to the property
- You took the property against the owner’s will
- You took the property from another person
- The property was in possession of another person
- You took the property that was not yours
You may face the penalties under PC 211, depending on whether you commit first-degree or second-degree robbery. If you are charged with first-degree robbery, you may face a fine of $ 10,000, sentence of up to three, four, or six years in state prison, or formal felony probation. You may also face enhanced sentences of up to three, six, or nine years in state prison if you commit the first-degree robbery with more people in an inhabited structure. If you get an accusation of second-degree robbery, you may face a fine of $ 10,000, sentence of two, three, or five years in state prison, or felony probation. Fortunately, there are legal defenses you can use to fight your robbery charges. They include false accusations, mistaken identity, and no use of fear or force.
Find a Defense Attorney Near Me
You need an attorney to help you create a defense strategy if you are facing property crime charges. You should contact your attorney as soon as possible so that he or she may have ample time to create a better defense. At Orange County Criminal Lawyer, we have competent attorneys who can evaluate your case and help you build the best defense against your charges. Contact us at 714-262-4833 and talk to one of our attorneys.