Defending Property Crime Charges
Under North Carolina law, criminal misconduct that damages or defaces land or property is taken very seriously.
While minor property crimes are often charged as misdemeanors, others are viewed harshly as felonies. In either case, a conviction could result in a challenging outcome. You may be incarcerated, or your freedom restricted in some other way. You may have to fulfill several inconvenient requirements, including community service, counseling, and educational programs – many of which can be costly. Worst of all, a criminal conviction can damage your reputation, making it difficult to move forward in your education or career. When you are facing significant disruptions to your life, the best thing you can do for yourself is to contact a property crimes lawyer.
Our Charlotte criminal lawyers at Randall & Stump, PLLC understand how frightening and intimidating the criminal court system can be. You do not have to go through it alone. We are here to guide you through this process, protect your rights, and vigorously defend you in court.
There are various vandalism charges in North Carolina. However, one of the most common is graffiti vandalism (NCGS 14-127.1). You may be charged with this offense if you unlawfully write on, mark, deface, or besmear the walls of any real property, cemetery monuments or tombstones, public building, or monument or statute in a public place with any type of pen, marker, or paint. While spray paint is a common tool for graffiti, this law does not require you to use spray paint to be charged and convicted.
Graffiti vandalism is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and if convicted, you may be fined at least $500 and a minimum of 24 hours of community service, if a more serious penalty, like jail, is not imposed. That being said, graffiti vandalism can also be charged as a Class H felony if you have two or more previous convictions. Felony vandalism may result in much harsher penalties, including months in prison.
Other vandalism charges include:
- Removing, Altering, or Defacing Landmarks (NCGS 14-147)
- Defacing or Desecrating Grave Sites (NCGS 14-189)
- Desecrating Graves or Human Remains (NCGS 14-149)
- Injuring Property to Obtain Nonferrous Metals (NCGS 14-159.4)
- Vandalism of Caves (NCGS 14-159.21)
Injury to Personal & Real Property
Certain actions you may think of as vandalism are charged as willful and wanton injury to personal property (NCGS 14-160) or willful and wanton injury to real property (NCGS 14-127). For example, if you are accused of intentionally keying someone’s vehicle and damaging the paint, this car vandalism is charged as injury to personal property.
If you intentionally injured another individual’s personal property, whether or not it was destroyed, you may be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor. However, if the damage you cause is valued at more than $200, you may face a Class 1 misdemeanor.
If there is evidence that you intentionally damaged, injured, or destroyed another party’s real property, whether it was public or private property, you can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Real property is anything that you would consider fixed in place, such as land and buildings. Personal property is everything else and is known as moveable property.
North Carolina has several arson statutes that determine the charge based on the structure or conveyance that was burned (NCGS 14-58 – 69.3). You may be charged with a crime for burning or attempting to burn:
- Governmental buildings
- Schools and educational buildings
- Construction sites
- Religious buildings
- Personal property
- Any other structure
Under North Carolina’s common law, the burning of a dwelling that is occupied at the time is arson of the first degree and a Class D felony. When the burned building was not occupied at the time, it is known as second-degree arson and charged as a Class G felony. However, other statutes may specify a different charge for the burning of various property. For example, the burning of a church or other religious building is a Class E felony. To discuss the specific charge you may face for arson and the potential penalty, contact a property crimes lawyer.
Like with vandalism and arson, trespassing in North Carolina is broken down into multiple specific offenses. Anytime you are found on another person, business, or government’s land when you are not supposed to be there; you may be charged with a trespassing offense, such as:
- First Degree Trespass (NCGS 14-159.12): You may face a Class 2 misdemeanor if you, without permission, enter or remain in a building or on an enclosed and secured premises. Depending on the property you trespass onto, such as if it is an electrical power facility, you may face a Class A1 misdemeanor or Class H felony.
- Second Degree Trespass (NCGS 14-159.13): You may be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor if you, without permission, enter or remain on the premises of another that have “notice not to enter” warnings or after being notified by a person authorized to be on the premises to leave or not stay.
Other trespass offenses include:
- Trespass on Public Lands (NCGS 14-130)
- Trespass on Land Under Option by the Federal Government (NCGS 14-131)
- Domestic Criminal Trespass (NCGS 14-134.3)
- Trespass to Land on Motorized All-Terrain Vehicle (NCGS 14-159.3)
- Trespass for the Purpose of Hunting (NCGS 14-159.6)
If you are accused of trespassing and charged with a crime, call a property crimes lawyer to discuss your rights and options. There may be multiple ways to defend yourself against these charges.
Penalties for Property Crimes
If you are convicted of a property crime in North Carolina, your potential penalty according to the criminal justice process depends on the level of the offense and your criminal history. For misdemeanors, the more previous convictions you have, the higher the minimum and maximum potential penalty. Overall, you face:
- Class A1 Misdemeanor: Between one and 150 days.
- Class 1 Misdemeanor: Between one and 120 days.
- Class 2 Misdemeanor: Between one and 60 days.
- Class 3 Misdemeanor: A fine only, or between one and 20 days.
The judge may sentence you to active punishment, which includes jail time. However, the judge may also sentence you to intermediate punishment or community punishments, which includes such things as supervised probation, electronic monitoring, drug treatment, community service, counseling, satellite-based monitoring, or educational or vocational training.
Penalties for felony property crimes are more complicated. North Carolina’s felony sentencing grid takes into account the class of the felony and your prior record level. Based on your criminal history, you may be placed into one of six prior record levels. The higher the level, the harsher the punishment.
The presumptive penalties for felonies include:
- Class A Felony: Life without parole or death.
- Class B1 Felony: Between 192 and 483 months.
- Class B2 Felony: Between 125 and 314 months.
- Class C Felony: Between 58 and 146 months.
- Class D Felony: Between 51 and 128 months.
- Class E Felony: Between 20 and 50 months.
- Class F Felony: Between 13 and 33 months.
- Class G Felony: Between 10 and 25 months.
- Class H Felony: Between five and 20 months.
- Class I Felony: Between four and 10 months.
However, these are the presumptive ranges. If you have mitigating factors in your case, then your term of imprisonment may be reduced. If there are aggravating factors, then your minimum and maximum penalty is increased.
Collateral Consequences of a Property Crime Conviction
If you are convicted of a property offense, whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony, you can expect to deal with collateral consequences beyond the criminal penalties. Having a permanent conviction on your record, which can be viewed by the public, is bound to impact your personal and professional life. You may face challenges related to:
- Continuing your education
- Obtaining private financial aid
- Obtaining certain professional licenses
- Finding and maintaining a job
- Renting an apartment or house
- Higher insurance premiums
- Child custody and visitation
- Immigration status
- Traveling abroad
Defending Against Property Crime Charges
Any time you are accused of or charged with committing a property crime, the best course of action is to hire a skilled attorney. At Randall & Stump, PLLC, we have decades of experience defending our clients against vandalism, arson, trespassing, injury to property, and in other property crime cases.
We will thoroughly review your case to determine the best possible defense, which may include:
- You had consent from the property owner.
- You have been falsely accused.
- This is a case of mistaken identity.
- The prosecution lacks sufficient evidence.