Charged with a Property Damage Crime in Texas? Here’s What to Expect
- May 17, 2017
- The Law Office of Greg Tsioros
- Comments Off on Charged with a Property Damage Crime in Texas? Here’s What to Expect
If you’re charged with a property damage or criminal mischief crime in Texas, you may be charged with intentional-deliberate destruction or damage to property belonging to public or private parties. The type of offenses typically include: accidental damage (e.g. after a hit and run) or deliberate damage from trespassing, graffiti, throwing eggs or tomatoes at cars/buildings, spray painting, smashing or destroying mailboxes, breaking windows, keying a car, or committing arson. Property damage offenses may result after from a domestic dispute or a fight with another person.
Have you or someone you know been charged with a property crime in Houston? The Law Office of Greg Tsioros has the knowledge and experience needed to represent you. Contact his office today for tough legal representation.
Defacement of public buildings or monuments may be viewed as a political act. Vandalism or graffiti is considered a state jail felony even when the damage is less than $20,000 if a community center, school, public monument, church, temple, mosque, or cemetery is involved.
You need to know what to expect. It is very important to engage a criminal defense attorney with experience in defending individuals accused of Texas property offenses. If you’ve been charged with a property damage crime in greater Houston, you face severe repercussions and punishments if convicted, including a jail or prison sentence, fines, and a lasting criminal record.
Texas Property Damage Laws and Statutes
Property damage may result in a variety of charges under Texas laws. Texas Penal Code Ann. § 28.04 describe reckless damage or destruction. If a person is charged with this statute, the individual is accused of recklessly damaging or destroying someone else’s property without his or her permission. If convicted, the offense may result in a misdemeanor.
According to Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 28.03, criminal mischief occurs when an individual does any of the following (either “intentionally” or “knowingly”):
- Destroys or damages physical tangible property belonging to someone else
- Damages or makes unauthorized alterations to property that belongs to someone else and causes a loss or “substantial inconvenient” to any other person
- Effaces or makes marking, writings, drawings, inscriptions, paintings or slogans on tangible property belonging to someone else
If found guilty of criminal mischief, the offender receives punishment for a misdemeanor, a state jail felony, or a third-degree, second-degree, or first-degree felony, depending on the dollar loss resulting from damages to the property.
Penalties for Property Damage Crimes in Houston
Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code describes the minimum statutory penalties for property damage crimes. Punishments may increase if the offender has a prior felony record, caused serious bodily injury or death by committing the offense, or used a weapon to attempt or commit the offense:
- If convicted of an offense resulting in a Class C misdemeanor, the convict may pay fines up to $500.
- If convicted of a property damage offense in a Class B misdemeanor, jail time of up to 180 days and a maximum fine of $2,000 may be required.
- If convicted of a property damage offense in a Class A misdemeanor, jail time of up to one year and a maximum fine of $4,000 may be required.
- If convicted of a property damage offense in a state jail felony, jail time of 180 days to 24 months and a maximum fine of $10,000 may be required.
- If convicted of a property damage offense in a third-degree felony, a prison term of two to 10 years and a maximum fine of $10,000 may be required.
- If convicted of a property damage offense in a second-degree felony, a prison term between two and 20 years and a maximum fine of $10,000 may be required.
- If convicted of a property damage offense in a first-degree felony, a prison term between five and 99 years to life imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000 may be required.
As you can see, criminal mischief, arson, and graffiti carry potentially severe punishments and consequences in Texas. In some instances, these property damage offenses carry punishments on par with violent crimes. If property damage is greater than $1,500, even a minor offense may become a felony. You need a criminal defense attorney if you’ve been charged with a property damage crime in greater Houston.
Property Damage Crimes and Ownership
A property damage offense charge often relies on witness statements and physical evidence. The prosecution is required to prove that you knew (“knowingly” or “intentionally”) you had no right to damage or destroy property and that you committed an action that caused the resulting damage or destruction of property. For instance:
- In an arson case, investigators may use accelerant traces found at the scene along with surveillance footage from a retail store where you purchased a can of gasoline.
- In a graffiti offense, investigators might find a spray device at the scene with your fingerprints on it. Alternatively, investigators might identify witnesses that saw you at or near the location where the incident occurred.
Importantly, even if you own a share in the property, it doesn’t matter under Texas law. You share ownership with another party.
Let’s say Jack decides to set fire to a vehicle he owns with a partner to avoid making payments. He commits a crime. Jack shares ownership of the property with another person. Even if Jack is making payments on the car in his name alone, the lienholder shares ownership with Jack. The vehicle is the asset upon which the lender made the loan.
If Jack uses a hockey stick to destroy the furniture in his house, this is also a criminal offense if his wife has a partial interest in the property.
Laws concerning property damage crimes in Texas are complex. An experienced criminal defense attorney is needed to guide you through the process.
Arson Crimes in Texas
Arson involves the act of causing an explosion or starting a fire for purposes of damaging or destroying property such as vehicles, land, or buildings. The act of starting a fire is arson under the law even if the fire smolders before causing damage to the property.
If you start a fire or set an explosion, you can be charged with an arson offense when the following conditions exist:
- If the property belongs to someone else, or rests on property that belongs to someone else, or it contains property that belongs to someone else—you can be charged with arson.
- If the property is financed with a mortgage loan or another form of lien or it is insured against property & casualty damage and the property is owned at least in part by someone else—you can be charged with arson.
- If you recklessly set an explosion or start a fire without considering the safety of individuals and property—you can be charged with arson.
If you set off fireworks in dry surroundings when a burn ban exists, or you start a campfire and the fire later causes damage to the surroundings, you might be charged with arson. If you start a fire when manufacturing a legal or illegal controlled substance and it causes damage, you can be charged with arson.
Arson is a serious crime. It’s a second-degree felony that is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. If the fire hurts or skills someone, or involves a church, temple, or mosque, the offense is a first-degree felony with a potential life sentence. If arson occurs in the process of manufacturing a controlled substance, it’s considered a state jail felony that is punishable by up to two years in jail.
Legal Defense and Property Damage Crimes in Texas
The Law Office of Greg Tsioros can help fight property damage charges by challenging evidence and the process used by police and investigators to find it. If evidence was obtained from a search, it’s possible to suppress if the search violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights.