CALL FOR A FREE CONSULTATION

Decoding Property Crimes: Types, Penalties, And Potential Defenses (Part 1)

May 15, 2024 | Criminal

Property crimes encompass a wide range of offenses, from theft and burglary to vandalism and arson. Some may be classified as misdemeanors, while others may be charged as felonies, depending on the severity of the property damage, the value of the stolen goods, the presence of aggravating factors, or the suspect’s criminal history.

If you’ve recently been charged with a property crime, it is crucial that you understand the nuances of these charges, their potential consequences, and effective defense strategies that could be used on your behalf. You should also secure aggressive and experienced legal representation as soon as you are able to ensure that your rights are protected throughout law enforcement’s investigation and the prosecution’s case preparation.

It is our goal to empower you with the knowledge you need to move forward with confidence. Whether you’re navigating a legal battle or simply seeking to arm yourself with knowledge, this blog is your go-to resource for unraveling the complexities of property crime law.

Arson

In Arizona, arson is defined as an individual knowingly and deliberately damaging a structure, property, or wild land area by causing a fire or explosion. There are varying degrees of arson crimes, including reckless burning, arson of an occupied structure, arson of an occupied jail or prison facility, and burning of wildlands. Depending on the severity of the damage caused, arson crimes may be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, and result in penalties like fines, probation, and prison time. For example:

  • Arson of structure is a class 4 felony with a minimum prison sentence of 18 months
  • Arson of property worth more than $1,000 is a class 4 felony with a minimum prison sentence of 18 months
  • Arson of property worth less than $1,000 but more than $100 is a class 5 felony with a minimum prison sentence of 9 months
  • Arson of property worth less than $100 is a class 1 misdemeanor which could result in up to a 6-month prison sentence, up to 3 years of probation, and as much as $2,500 in fines and fees, plus surcharges
  • Arson of an occupied structure is a class 2 felony with a minimum prison sentence of 4 years
  • Arson of an occupied jail or prison facility is a class 4 felony with a minimum prison term of 18 months, and
  • Burning of wildlands may either be charged as a misdemeanor or felony if aggravating factors are present.

Arson Defenses

There are 3 main defense strategies that a skilled criminal defense attorney may choose from to defend a person charged with arson.

The first is that the defendant did not act with criminal intent. In other words, the fire or explosion was caused by an accident, and they did not willfully and intentionally commit the act.

The second potential defense is that the fire or explosion was not caused by arson, but something else, such as harsh weather or lightning, faulty/old wiring, cooking/heating equipment, candles, or cigarettes.

Finally, a defense attorney may assert that the arson charges are the result of false allegations. A person may falsely accuse another person of arson for many reasons, such as if they burned their own property in violation of insurance and fraud laws and want to blame someone else, or a person accidentally started a fire and does not want to face consequences, or a person accuses another person out of anger or revenge.

Burglary

Burglary laws in Arizona can cover a wide range of behavior, and it doesn’t always involve an elaborate heist of a casino vault or a masked bandit robbing a bank Bonnie-and-Clyde style. The baseline for a burglary conviction in this state is simply the unlawful entry onto a property with the intent to commit a theft or felony. Burglary charges are felonies which range in severity and also result in penalties like fines, probation, and prison time.

Burglary in the 1st degree of a residential structure is a class 2 felony with a minimum prison sentence of 7 years, maximum of 21 years, while burglary in the 1st degree of a commercial structure is a class 3 felony with a minimum prison sentence of 2 years, and a maximum of 7 years. Class 1 burglary charges require proof beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • The defendant or an accomplice entered or remained unlawfully in a residential or non-residential structure, or fenced commercial or residential yard, AND
  • The defendant or an accomplice intended to commit any theft or felony while on the property, AND
  • The defendant or accomplice knowingly possessed explosives, a deadly weapon, a firearm, or a dangerous instrument at some point between the time of entry through leaving the scene.

Burglary in the 2nd degree is a class 3 felony with a minimum prison sentence of 2 years, and a maximum of 8.75 years. Class 2 burglary charges require proof beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • The defendant entered or remained unlawfully in or on a residential structure, AND
  • Did so with the intent to commit any theft or felony.

Burglary in the 3rd degree is a class 4 felony with a minimum prison sentence of 1 year, and a maximum of 3.75 years. Class 3 burglary charges require proof beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • The defendant entered or remained unlawfully in or on a non-residential structure or fenced yard, or entered into any part of a vehicle by use of a manipulation, AND
  • Did so with the intent to commit any theft or felony.

Possession of burglary tool(s), a class 6 felony with a minimum prison sentence of 4 months and a maximum of 2 years, however if the charge is coupled with another burglary charge, the penalty is much harsher and may mean a prison sentence of up to 6 years. However, a person does not have to actually commit the burglary to be charged. These tools typically include explosives, lock-picking tools, electronic hacking devices, motor vehicle manipulation keys, unauthorized master keys, and more.

Burglary Defenses

There are a few defense strategies that an experienced criminal defense attorney may use in court to challenge burglary charges. The first is arguing that the defendant is factually innocent by casting reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s case of showing that all elements of the charges, as listed above, were not present.

An attorney may also argue a lack of intent, meaning the defendant did not have a specific intent to commit a crime when they entered the commercial or residential structure, or argue consent, meaning the defendant had permission by the owner to enter the structure.

Finally, burglary charges can be challenged by a claim of police misconduct. Such acts may include a law enforcement officer “planting” or “fabricating” evidence, asking leading questions of witnesses during a line-up, violating the defendant’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures, or coercing a confession.

Burglary And Arson Are Serious Felonies. Contact Alatorre Law Today For The Best Chance At A Favorable Outcome!

Our lead attorney, Javier Alatorre, has 20 years of experience defending those accused of crimes in Arizona. He has been voted a Top 100 Trial Lawyer, giving you an all-around advantage against the prosecution. As someone who truly cares about your future and sees you as the person you are, not just another case file, he offers a personalized attorney-client relationship with 24/7 communication access to address your needs and concerns. Call today to schedule your free consultation, which is completely confidential, and learn more about how we can serve you.

Why Choose Us?

FREE CONSULTATION

MORE THAN 18 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE IN CRIMINAL LAW

24/7 COMMUNICATION ACCESS

NAMED TOP 100 TRIAL LAWYER

FINANCING AVAILABLE

UNCOMPROMISING ATTENTION TO DETAIL

HABLAMOS ESPAÑOL

Call us

(520) 377-7726