If you have been arrested or charged with committing a property crime in Greensburg, PA, you should contact a property crime lawyer at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys. We are highly experienced in defending against all types of property crimes, including destruction of property offenses like vandalism and intellectual property crimes, such as counterfeit trademarks.
Whether you are accused of violating the property owner’s exclusive rights or causing financial harm, our Greensburg criminal defense attorneys are here to thoroughly review your case and determine the most appropriate defense. Our priority will always be obtaining the best possible outcome, whether that is a dismissal, acquittal, or minimum penalties upon conviction.
What Is a Property Crime?
To put it simply, property crimes are non-consensual actions against another person’s property, be it money, personal property, or real estate, which causes some harm. Many crimes against property are unlawful because they cause another person economic hardship. For instance, vandalism can result in hundreds or thousands of dollars in property damage.
However, some property crimes do not cause anyone physical or financial injury. Instead, they violate a person’s exclusive right to fully control their own property. For example, trespassing on another person’s land is illegal; even you do not harm to the land or structures on it. This is because the owner of that land has the right to determine who and who not may come onto the premises or use the land. By coming onto the land without permission, you are violating a fundamental right of property owners.
If you have any questions regarding property crimes in Greensburg, do not hesitate to contact our property crimes attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys.
Types of Property Crimes
There is a wide range of property crime charges you may face depending upon the specific allegations against you. Some of the most common property crimes we handle include:
Arson (18 Pa. Code §3301)
You can be charged with arson if there is evidence you intentionally or recklessly caused an explosion or fire, or you helped someone cause an explosion or fire. The specific charge will range between a summary offense, misdemeanor, or felony depending on several factors. Prosecutors will consider the type of property involved, whether people were or could have been hurt or killed, and if you burnt any historic resources. You can face a charge as low as a summary offense if no one was hurt, and no property was damaged. You may be able to avoid jail time for a summary offense. You also can face a first-degree felony if you caused someone harm or death. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony arson crime, you are likely to be sentenced to some time in jail or prison and hefty fines. No matter the level of the charge, you should hire an attorney to defend you.
Criminal Mischief (18 Pa. Code §3304)
If you intentionally, recklessly, or negligently damage, deface, or tamper with someone else’s property, which places someone in danger or causes someone an economic loss, you can be charged with criminal mischief. This is often what people think of as vandalism. You can be charged with a summary offense, misdemeanor, or felony depending on the value of the damage you cause. If you cause more than $5,000 in damage, or you substantially interrupt a public utility or service, you will face a third-degree felony.
Vandalism (18 Pa. Code §3307 & §3309)
Under Pennsylvania law, you can be charged with a crime for institutional or agricultural vandalism. Institutional vandalism involves desecrating, vandalizing, defacing, or damaging any cemetery, burial facility, place of worship, government building, educational facility, community center, juvenile detention center, or any of the grounds own or occupied by these buildings. The level of an institutional vandalism charge can be a summary offense, third-, second-, or first-degree misdemeanor, or third- or second-degree felony.
Or, you could be charged with agricultural vandalism if you intentionally or recklessly mark, deface, or damage any real or personal property used for an agricultural activity or farming. Depending on the exact allegations against you, and the alleged value of the damage, you could face a third-, second-, or first-degree misdemeanor, or a third-degree felony.
Trespassing (18 Pa. Code §3503)
If you enter or remain in a structure, enter a structure through subterfuge, break into a building or occupied structure, or go onto someone else’s land to commit a crime, and you know you do not have permission, then you can be charged with simple trespass, agricultural trespass, or trespass of buildings or occupied structures. Depending on the circumstances, you could be charged with a third- or second-degree felony. Under the same law, you could also be charged for being a defiant trespasser. This means you trespassed on another person’s land even though you were verbally told not to or there are warning signs posted against trespassing. This may be charged as a summary offense, third-degree misdemeanor, or a first-degree misdemeanor.
Penalties for Property Crimes in Pennsylvania
If you are convicted of a property crime in Pennsylvania, you could face severe penalties. The maximum potential term of incarceration and fines depend on the level of the charge against you.
- Summary Offense: Up to 90 days of imprisonment and fines up to $300.
- Third-Degree Misdemeanor: Up to one year of imprisonment and a maximum fine of $2,000.
- Second-Degree Misdemeanor: Up to two years of incarceration and a fine reaching $5,000.
- First-Degree Misdemeanor: Up to five years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000.
- Third-Degree Felony: Up to seven years in prison and fines up to $15,000.
- Second-Degree Felony: Up 10 years of incarceration and fines reaching $25,000.
- First-Degree Felony: Up to 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
In addition to incarceration and fines, you may face several other statutory penalties. You may have to pay court fees and restitution to the victims of the crime. You may be required to complete community service in addition to or in place of time in custody. You also may be required to follow the rules of probation for months or years after your release from jail or prison. To learn more about the potential punishment for a Greensburg property crime, call a property crime attorney at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys.
Federal Intellectual Property Crimes
The property crimes above mostly deal with land and structures. They also encompass personal property, like vehicles or agricultural equipment. Intellectual property deals with property that is not tangible. These offenses encompass copyrighted materials, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets. If you violate another person or company’s copyright, trademark, patent, or right to privacy in regard to their trade secrets, then you can face Pennsylvania or federal charges.
Federal intellectual property crimes may lead to misdemeanor or felony charges. For example, if you are found guilty of criminal copyright infringement, with a retail value between $1,000 and $2,500, you will face a misdemeanor. However, if you counterfeit trademarks or steal trade secrets, you face up to 10 years in prison and hundreds of thousands or millions in fines.
If you are being investigated by federal authorities for intellectual property theft, call our property crime attorneys immediately. Our federal lawyers in Greensburg will protect your rights during a criminal investigation and the federal court process.
Potential Secondary Consequences of a Property Crime Conviction
With a misdemeanor or felony property crime on your record, you may face several hurdles. Even after you complete your sentence, there are many collateral consequences that can hold you back or at least make it harder to progress in your education, career, and social life.
Some of the most common collateral consequences following a property crime conviction are:
- Challenges finding a job
- Difficulty being admitted to college
- Difficulty obtaining private grants and scholarships
- Challenges being approved for rental property
- Challenges obtaining personal loans
- Difficulty traveling internationally
- Child custody and visitation issues
- Immigration issues
- Loss of the right to vote during your statutory penalty
- If convicted of a felony, loss of voting rights
Defending Against Property Crime Charges in Greensburg
When you are facing a property crime charge, whether it is a minor summary offense or a serious felony, you should work with a property crime lawyer to defend yourself. There are several possible defenses to property crimes, including:
- You lacked the necessary intent to commit the crime.
- You had the consent of the property owner.
- You have been falsely accused.
- There has been a mistake of identity.
- You are the victim of an unconstitutional arrest.
- The police conducted an unconstitutional search and seizure.
- Certain pieces of evidence are not valid, relevant, or otherwise admissible.
- Your actions did not put anyone else’s life or property in danger.
- There is insufficient evidence to prove you committed the offense.
A Property Crime Lawyer Is Here to Help
Being charged with a property crime in Greensburg can be intimidating. You may not understand the law surrounding the charge or the potential penalties. You may not be sure of what to say to explain the situation, but without legal help, you could be doing more harm than good. We are here to offer guidance and advice. At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC , our property crime lawyers are well-versed in all types of Pennsylvania property offenses and can clearly explain all your options and alternatives. We will make sure you are fully informed and discuss all of the possibilities, including negotiating for a dismissal, a reduction in the charges, or appearing on your behalf in court.