We often take our relationship with property for granted. This may be, in part, because of the lack of regard characters in media show their own or other people’s property. For entertainment value, you may see scorned spouses on a reality show throw their partner’s belongings out of a window. Or, you might see someone key a car or egg a person’s house. While property damage is quickly accepted and forgotten in fiction, in real life, the willful destruction of property that belongs to someone else can be a crime. If you deface or destroy someone else’s property, you could face serious criminal charges.
If you have been arrested for injury to real or personal property in Charlotte, NC, call the criminal defense lawyers at Randall & Stump, PLLC right away. Depending on your alleged conduct, you may face a misdemeanor or felony offense. In either situation, you should have an experienced property crimes lawyer defend you.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer?
It’s all too easy to contemplate representing yourself or using a public defender when charged with a misdemeanor. You might be in denial about the severity of the situation. But a misdemeanor is still a crime, and the repercussions of a conviction can ripple throughout your life for years. We all know a criminal conviction ruins your reputation. But it can also make it harder to get a job, go to college or obtain occupational training, get financial aid for school, rent an apartment, and much more. In many misdemeanor cases, the collateral consequences are worse than the criminal punishment. That’s why no matter how minor the offense seems, you should fight it head-on with the guidance of an experienced defense attorney.
The Benefits of Hiring a Defense Attorney
Before hiring an attorney, you should understand what our law firm will do. When we take on a new criminal case, we get to work reviewing every detail. We pick apart the law enforcement investigation and gather additional evidence ourselves. Only once we have a complete picture of what happened and how you ended up in this situation we strategize on obtaining the best possible outcome.
The facts of your case influence our goal, which might be a dismissal, reduction in charges, acquittal, or mitigating the consequences of a conviction. We have years of experience negotiating with prosecutors, and in many cases, we have been able to get charges dropped or reduced. We understand how to use the legal process to your advantage, including when to file pre-trial motions and how to make the prosecution work to meet their burden of proof. We don’t make it easy for them.
Our purpose, throughout the criminal court process, is to protect your rights and vigorously defend you against these charges. By working with an attorney, you have the best chance of obtaining the best possible outcome in your case. You might be able to avoid a trial entirely.
Why You Should Hire Randall & Stump, PLLC
When you are facing property damage charges, it is best to work with an experienced and successful criminal defense lawyer right away. Anthony DelNero is a former prosecutor in Mecklenburg County, so he has a keen insight into how prosecutors think and behave in the courtroom. Samuel Randall is a Board Certified Specialist in both State and Federal Criminal Law by the North Carolina State Bar. Both attorneys have decades of combined experience handling state and federal criminal matters all across North Carolina.
Our skills and experience have led to a strong record of fair results in criminal cases. Review our results to learn how we are able to have some charges reduced or dropped, or how we mitigate the consequences of an arrest or conviction. Though we cannot guarantee or promise a certain outcome in your case, you can rest assured that we will do everything in our power to obtain the best possible outcome.
Charges for Injury to Real Property
Under North Carolina General Statute (NCGS) §14-127, you can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor if you willfully and wantonly damage, injure, or destroy any public or private real property.
You will only be charged under this statute if the property in question is real property—think real estate, a house, a building, or land. Real property is defined as land and the fixtures attached to it. Some common real property includes residential houses and condos, commercial buildings, garages, retaining walls, fences, and gates. Real property can also include anything that is affixed, or attached, to any of the above structures.
You also need to know what willful and wanton means. To act willfully and wantonly is to act consciously in disregard of or with a reckless indifference to the consequences of your actions, all while being aware of the conduct you’re engaged in, and the fact that your conduct would likely result in injury— basically to do something on purpose. Essentially, it means your conduct was not an accident or mere carelessness.
Many types of conduct can lead to a misdemeanor charge under this statute, including behavior you’d consider a prank. Someone might accuse you of egging another person’s house and breaking a window. You might be accused of egging a car and causing extensive damage to the paint. If you face accusations of setting fire to someone’s shed or garage, you may face property damage charges instead of felony arson charges because the building was not a dwelling or a specifically protected building.
Whatever the situation, the best thing for you to do is to work with a defense attorney who is experienced in fighting property crimes in Charlotte, NC.
Charges for Injury to Personal Property
If you are accused of causing damage to another individual’s personal property, then you may face charges under NCGS §14-160. If you wantonly and willfully injure the personal property of another, you can be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor. But if the damage you cause to someone else’s personal property is more than $200.00, then you will be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor.
The law covering injury to personal property does not require the complete destruction of the items – only that you damage the property. You may deface property in a way that could be repaired, damage an item in a way that cannot be repaired, or you could destroy an item to the point where it is not recognizable or useful. No matter the extent of the damage, you will be charged with a misdemeanor offense.
To be charged under this statute, you must have harmed someone else’s property that is not real property. In other words, the item was not land, building, or other fixture on someone’s land. Personal property could be a vehicle, artwork, jewelry, mobile phone, laptop, other electronics, or any other item someone owns that is not real estate.
While the severity of misdemeanor charges for injury to personal property typically depend on the dollar amount of damage caused, there are two circumstances where the dollar value does not matter. If you are accused of altering, defacing, destroying, or removing permanent identification marks on someone’s personal property, you will be charged with a Class 1 Misdemeanor. An example would be removing the serial number on someone’s laptop or desktop computer. The other instance where the dollar amount of damage caused to someone else’s personal property is not taken into account applies to firearms. In the event that someone alters, defaces, destroys, or removes the serial number, manufacturer’s ID plate or other identification mark on a firearm, that person will be charged with a Class H Felony.
Other Property Damage Charges
North Carolina has a wealth of statutes criminalizing injury to real and personal property, including:
NCGS §14-127.1 – Graffiti Vandalism: Graffiti on any real property, public building, statute, or monument is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by 24 hours of community service and at least a $500 fine. Subsequent charges can be charged as a Class H felony.
NCGS §14-128 – Injury to Trees, Crops, Lands, etc. of Another: If you damage or remove another person’s trees, timber, garden, crops, or other land or foliage without permission, you can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor.
NCGS §14-132 – Disorderly Conduct in and Injuries to Public Buildings: If you act as a nuisance or perpetrate disorderly conduct in a public building or facility, or deface any public building, statute, or monument, then you can be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor.
NCGS §14-135 –Removing Another’s Timber: If you knowingly and willfully cut down, injure, or remove any standing or fallen tree or log from another person’s property, you can be charged with a larceny offense.
NCGS §14-136 – Setting Fire to Grass, Brushlands, and Woodlands: If you intentionally set fire to any grass, brush, or woodland that isn’t your property, you can be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor. If you intend to burn your property, you are required to provide notice to owners of neighboring lands and control the fire. If a prosecutor can show you intended to damage the property, you can face a Class I felony charge.
NCGS §14-137 –Setting Fire to Woods and Fields: If you intentionally or negligently set fire to any woods, lands or fields in a county protected by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, then you face a Class 2 misdemeanor.
NCGS §14-141 – Destroying Crops in the Field: if you intentionally burn or destroy another person’s crop or pasture, you can face a Class I misdemeanor a Class I felony, depending on the value of the damage.
NCGS §14-144 – Injuring Houses, Churches, Fences, and Walls: If you intentionally and unlawfully demolish, destroy, deface, or damage any church, uninhabited house, outhouse, graveyard, factory housing machinery, or any buildings mentioned in Article 15 related to arson, or any fences, walls, or other enclosures part of the property, by means other than burning, then you face a Class 2 misdemeanor or Class I felony depending on the value of the damage.
NCGS §14-146 – Injuring Bridges: If you intentionally demolish, destroy, break, or damage any bridge across any creek, river, or stream in the state, you will face a Class 1 misdemeanor.
NCGS §14-147 – Defacing Landmarks: If you knowingly remove, alter, or deface any landmark, or knowingly cause it to be removed, altered, or defaced, you face a Class 2 misdemeanor.
NCGS §14-148 – Defacing or Desecrating Grave Sites: If you unlawfully and intentionally leave garbage in a cemetery; move, disturb, destroy, or vandalize any material enclosing a cemetery; or move, disturb, destroy, or vandalize any shrubbery, plants, or flowers placed in the cemetery to designate where human remains are located, then you face a Class I felony or Class 1 misdemeanor, depending on the value of the damage.
NCGS §14-149 – Desecrating Human Remains: if you open, disturb, vandalize, desecrate, or remove any casket or repository of human remains, or take away, disturb, vandalize, or destroy any tombstone, headstone, monument, or ornamentation that designates where human remains are, you face a Class I felony.
NCGS §14-159.4 – Injuring Property to Obtain Nonferrous Metals: If you unlawfully and intentionally mutilate, deface, or damage personal or real property, including any fixtures, to obtain nonferrous metals, you can be charged with Class 1 misdemeanor or higher felony depending on the value of the damage. If your actions cause someone serious injuries, you face a Class A1 misdemeanor or Class F felony.
While these are just a few of North Carolina’s many property crimes, there also are several other statutes related to trespassing on others’ property, arson, and interfering with water, natural gas, electricity, and telephone systems. If you are accused of any property crime in Charlotte, call the criminal defense firm of Randall & Stump, PLLC right away.
Criminal Penalties for Injury to Property
Following many property crime convictions, judges have discretion in the length and type of penalty you face, which is why it is essential to work with an experienced property crimes defense lawyer. North Carolina uses sentencing charts for both misdemeanors and felonies, and the judge can order you to serve a sentence within the minimum and maximum prescribed by the chart. By having a Charlotte criminal defense attorney defend you, you improve your chance of avoiding a conviction, as well as mitigating the consequences of a conviction, such as an active jail sentence like those listed below:
Class H Felony: Between three and 24 months in prison, fines, and collateral consequences.
Class 1 Misdemeanor: Between one and 120 days in jail, fines, and collateral consequences.
Class 2 Misdemeanor: between one and 60 days in jail, fines, and collateral consequences.
A judge can sentence you to probation, community service, pay restitution, and other penalties. You might also find that a conviction for property damage, even a misdemeanor, can make it challenging to maintain employment, be approved for rental housing, and go to school. The consequences of a conviction can make it very hard to move forward in life, even after you complete your sentence.
Defending Against Injury to Property Charges
When you need to defend yourself against a property damage crime, whether it is an injury to real or personal property, call Randall & Stump, PLLC, to speak with a Charlotte property crimes defense lawyer. Our team is highly experienced in defending against property crimes.
The Prosecution’s Burden of Proof
It’s important to remember that just because you are charged with a crime does not mean you will be convicted. The prosecution only needs probable cause to move forward with charges. But for a judge or jury to convict you, the prosecution must prove you committed the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a high standard. Any lingering reasonable doubt in the judge’s or juror’s mind should lead to an acquittal.
Thorough, Independent Investigations
We take a close look at the facts of your case. The small details matter. We evaluate each piece of evidence to determine whether it helps or hinders your defense and how strong or weak it is in the prosecutor’s hands. For example, some of the facts we will review are 1) if the damage was caused outside of the presence of the owner, what, if any, evidence does the State have to prove you did it, 2) if the property is owned by a “non-person” owner (i.e. a business), where the necessary facts alleged about the owner, or is the charging document fatally defective, and 3) does our client have any ownership interest in the property that was damaged or destroyed.
Pre-Trial Motions and Evidence Suppression
We also analyze your case for unlawful conduct by the police. We might find evidence that you were subject to an unlawful search and seizure. We will file a pre-trial motion to suppress any evidence that was unlawfully obtained. We also will file pre-trial motions to have irrelevant or prejudicial evidence ruled inadmissible.
Initial Negotiations with the Prosecution
We might be able to have the charges dropped or reduced, but it depends on the circumstances. We might be able to show the prosecutor that they lack sufficient evidence to prove you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, a lack of intent might be a defense. Any damage to the property might have been accidental.
Preparing for Trial
If the charges move forward, we craft a strong defense to present at trial. For many property crimes, willful intent is necessary. We may be able to show the court that the property was damaged by accident. We might be able to prove this is a case of mistaken identity, and you are not the culprit. We also work hard to present you and your circumstances in the best light to try to mitigate the consequences of a potential conviction.