Whether it involves smashing a car window or spraying graffiti on a building, property damage crimes can result in many headaches for those charged with these types of offenses. In some cases, an individual charged with a property damage crime could face a civil claim for monetary damages, as well as criminal charges that carry the possibility of jail time, fines, or both.
Under Texas law, most property damage crimes are charged as criminal mischief. If you deliberately destroy or damage someone else’s property, you could face serious consequences for criminal mischief. To protect your reputation and your future, it’s important to work with a Texas criminal defense lawyer who regularly handles criminal mischief cases.
Property Crimes Can Carry Serious Penalties
There are many different activities that lead to a property damage charge under Texas law. In some cases, people damage property because they get into a domestic dispute or physical altercation.
In other cases, people are charged with a property damage offense because they key someone else’s car or throw garbage at someone’s house. Fans of pop star Justin Bieber might remember him pleading no contest to misdemeanor vandalism charges after he threw eggs at his neighbor’s house. The court ordered Bieber to serve two years’ probation, five days of community service, and pay $80,000 in damages. The court also required him to complete an anger management class.
In Bieber’s case, the property damage crime was charged as a misdemeanor. It’s also possible to be charged with a misdemeanor property damage crime in Texas, but some property damage offenses are charged as felonies.
For example, it’s a state jail felony in Texas to cause property damage ranging between $1,500 and $20,000. It’s also a state jail felony to cause damage under $1,500 if the crime involved arson. People convicted of these offenses can face up to two years in jail, as well as a maximum $10,000 fine.
If a property damage crime results in more than $20,000 in damage, an individual can be charged with a first degree, second degree, or third-degree felony depending on the amount of damage involved.
Property Damage Crimes Must Involve Intent
A common question people have is whether they can be charged with a property damage crime if the damage they inflicted was accidental. As with all crimes, one of the elements that the prosecution must prove in its case is intent. Specifically, the person charged with damaging property must knowingly and intentionally cause damage to property that belongs to someone else.
This means that you can’t be charged with a property crime for getting into a car accident and damaging another person’s car. Of course, the case is much different if you got into your car in a rage and deliberately rammed the side of the other vehicle. In that situation, you’re likely to be charged with a property damage crime — and possibly much more serious charges if the other vehicle was occupied at the time of the incident.
People also ask if they can be charged with a property damage crime if they own the property jointly with another person. For example, they want to know if they can be charged with damaging property when they are listed as an owner on a home’s title. Although you may be a co-owner on a piece of property, you can still be charged with property damage.
For example, if a husband sets fire to a home he owns with his wife in an attempt to collect insurance money, he can still be charged with property damage because he damaged property that belongs to his wife. He might also be charged with property damage for intentionally damaging the furniture and personal items inside the house.
Punishments for Property Damage Crimes
In many cases, a person charged with a property damage crime got a little out of hand and did something they regret. This can happen with teens and young people. In these types of cases, the offenses are typically charged as a misdemeanor. For example, a Class C misdemeanor carries a maximum fine of $500.
In other cases, however, property damage offenses cause a significant amount of damage. In these cases, individuals can face serious penalties, including a felony conviction that results in a lengthy prison sentence. Individuals with a previous criminal record can also face enhanced penalties for a property damage crime.
It’s also important to note that the law imposes serious consequences on people who commit property damage crimes involving an occupied vehicle or building. If you set a fire or cause an explosion in a home or car that is occupied at the time, you could face serious penalties under the law. The courts take these cases very seriously, and prosecutors will typically pursue the maximum penalties available. That is why it is important to speak with a skilled Texas criminal defense lawyer who has experience handling criminal mischief cases.
Federal Criminal Defense Attorney John Helms