Property offenses in Pennsylvania lead to significant criminal charges, and are taken as seriously as violent offenses committed directly against people. Just because a criminal offense only involves damage to property does not mean it won’t lead to felony charges. The more damage done to property and the greater the risk to human life accompanying the crime, the charges and potential penalties you face will be higher. This may seem extreme, but all of these laws are necessary to ensure that you and others can go about their lives safely and without fear that someone is going to harm you or your property in any way.
When you are accused of a property crime, you need to work with a property crimes lawyer at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC. The greatest chance you have of exonerating yourself in court or receiving the minimum consequences upon conviction is to work with an aggressive Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney who will build you a strong and thorough defense. Call us today at (412) 281-2146 to learn how we can help.
A Review of a Common Pennsylvania Property Crimes
We have years of experience representing individuals against all types of property crimes, including:
- Arson– Arson and its related offenses are laid out in 18 Pa. Code §3301. You may be charged with an arson offense if you intentionally or recklessly start a fire or cause an explosion, or you help or pay someone else to do so – even if the damaged or ruined property is your own. The specific charge you face depends on whether you endangered property or people, caused injuries or fatalities, or burnt historic resources. If you hurt someone or put people in danger of being hurt, you can be charged with a first-degree felony. You could also face a charge as low as a summary offense if you started a fire that did not cause property damage or injuries. Whatever the level of the charge, call a property crimes lawyer for help right away.
- Criminal Mischief– Under 18 Pa. Code §3304, you can be found guilty of criminal mischief if you intentionally, recklessly, or negligently damage, deface, or tamper with another person’s property, putting someone in danger or causing someone a financial loss. Criminal mischief can be a summary offense, misdemeanor, or felony depending on the circumstances and the value of the damage you caused.
- Institutional Vandalism– You may be charged with institutional vandalism based on 18 Pa. Code §3307 if you knowingly desecrate, vandalize, deface, or otherwise damage a place of worship, cemetery, burial facility, municipal or government building, educational facility, community center, juvenile detention center, or any grounds owned by, occupied by, or adjacent to these types of buildings. Depending on the circumstances surrounding this offense and the amount of damage done to the property, you could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor or a third-degree felony.
- Agricultural Vandalism– 18 Pa. Code §3309 states you can be charged with agricultural vandalism if you intentionally or recklessly deface, mark, or otherwise damage any real or tangible personal property that is used in farming or any agricultural activity. This includes a wide-variety of objects, such as livestock, crops, dairy products, farming equipment, and research and data-gathering equipment. Based on your alleged actions and the value of the damage, you may face a misdemeanor or felony offense. When you are charged with any type of vandalism, contact a property crimes attorney for help.
- Criminal Trespass– You can be charged with criminal trespass, which is outlined in 18 Pa. Code §3503, if you, while knowing you do not have permission, enter or remain in a structure, gain entry into a structure through subterfuge, break into any building or occupied structure, or go onto another person’s land to commit a crime. Depending on the facts of your case, you could be charged with simple trespass, agricultural trespass, or trespass of buildings or occupied structures. You could be charged with a summary offense, misdemeanor, or felony.
- Defiant Trespass– 18 Pa. Code §3503(b) describes when you can be charged with being a defiant trespasser, which may be a summary offense, third-degree misdemeanor, or first-degree misdemeanor. You may be charged with defiant trespass if, knowing you do not have permission, you enter or remain in a place where you receive notice against trespassing either through a posted sign, fencing, or actual communication from another person. At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, our property crimes lawyers understand misunderstandings often lead to trespass charges.
Penalties and Jail Time for Property Crimes in Pennsylvania
When prosecutors have charged you with a property crime, you need to face the possible severity of statutory punishments. Minor property crimes can lead to jail time, yet your property crimes lawyer may also be able to fight for alternative punishments, such as probation, community service, or counseling. However, the more serious the property crime, the more likely you are to face years of imprisonment and significant financial penalties, including fines and restitution.
- A summary offense is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and fines up to $300.
- A third-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail and fines up to $2,000.
- A second-degree misdemeanor can be penalized by up to two years in jail and fines reaching $5,000.
- A first-degree misdemeanor is punishable up to five years in jail and a maximum fine of $10,000.
- A third-degree felony can be punished with up to seven years in prison and a fine up to $15,000.
- A second-degree felony is punishable by prison time for up to 10 years and a maximum fine of $25,000.
- A first-degree felony may be penalized with up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.
When facing any level of property offense, you need to work with a skilled and aggressive property crimes attorney. Many property crimes can be charged at more than one level depending on the facts of the case. An attorney can fight for your charges to be reduced. This can be particularly helpful if a felony can be reduced to a misdemeanor.
The Potential Secondary Consequences of a Property Crime Conviction
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony property crime, you can expect the consequences to go beyond incarceration, fines, and restitution. Having a permanent conviction on your record will come up when you have to fill out applications or do anything that requires a background check. When potential employers, colleges, loan officers, and landlords see that you were convicted of a property crime such as vandalism or arson, they may not trust you. They may worry about the possibility of you re-offending and impacting their business. You could lose out on jobs, educational opportunities, loans, and rental homes.
A conviction can also impact your family. If you share custody of your children with their other parent, their mom or dad could use the conviction as a reason to go back to court to gain more custody or deny you visitation.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, a conviction could impact your immigration status. You may lose a visa or have your renewal application denied. Your ability to become a permanent resident or citizen may be lost. If you are undocumented, you could face deportation.
Additionally, if you are convicted of a felony, you could lose your right to vote for a period of time and lose your right to own firearms forever.
How to Defend Against Property Crime Charges in Pennsylvania
Whether you have been charged with a summary offense or a felony, you need to speak with an attorney about the best way to defend yourself. The most appropriate defense strategy depends on the charge, the facts of the case, your criminal history, and a number of other factors. At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, our property crimes lawyers will thoroughly review your situation and advise you on the best way to handle your case and the potential outcomes.
Our attorneys will go over every inch of your case. Some of the defenses our property crimes lawyers may deploy include:
- Challenging constitutionality of your arrest
- Seeking to have evidence obtained through an unlawful search or seizure ruled inadmissible
- Challenging the validity of evidence
- Challenging the relevance of evidence
- Arguing you lacked the necessary intent to commit the offense
- Arguing you had consent to act as you did
- Arguing there has been a mistake of identity
- Proving you have an alibi for the time of the offense
- Arguing your actions did not put lives and/or property in danger
- Proving the prosecution has insufficient evidence
Let Our Pittsburgh Property Crimes Lawyers Fight for You
When you have been charged with a property crime in Pennsylvania, you need a legal team who is prepared to aggressively fight for your rights and freedom. At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we are prepared to guide you through this legal process with compassion while fighting hard in court. Our goal will always be to obtain the best possible outcome in your case.