People in Virginia, like the rest of the country, take the preservation and security of their property very seriously and there are strict laws in place to protect what people have worked hard to acquire. While property and trespassing crimes often arise due to misunderstandings or mistaken identity, if you are ever charged, you can face some extremely harsh penalties and repercussions, including incarceration, the creation of a permanent criminal record, costly fines, restitution, and civil liability.
Depending on the exact nature of the offense, you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony, but nevertheless, these crimes can drastically alter your life. Whatever property crime you are accused of, you will need a highly experienced and accomplished Roanoke criminal defense attorney to fight for your rights and work towards a positive resolution.
At Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico, we understand that every case is different, requiring its own unique approach. Contact us right away at (540) 343-9349 for a free and confidential consultation, so we can evaluate your situation and discuss all your legal options.
Virginia Property and Trespassing Crimes
- Arson (§ 18.2-77) – Deliberately and maliciously burning with fire or bombing another’s structure or property to cause destruction or damage. This is always a felony level crime and depending on the circumstance and whether the structure was inhabited at the time of the fire, arson can result in a sentence of between two years or up to life in prison.
- Burglary (§ 18.2-89)— This offense relates to breaking and entering a dwelling with the intent to commit a felony or any larceny. A key element to this charge involves the alleged offender’s intent to commit a crime after entering the property and is often charged as a Class 3 felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, $100,000 fine, or both. Additionally, if the someone possesses a weapon in the commission of the burglary, the offense can be increased to a Class 2 felony, along with higher penalties.
- Trespassing (§ 18.2-119) — This involves knowingly entering another person’s land or structure without consent or remaining on the property in question after being told to leave. There are several ways that Virginia criminalizes trespassing in specific places and with varying levels of severity, ranging from misdemeanor to felony level penalties in extreme circumstances.
- Destruction of Property (§ 18.2-137) – Virginia criminalizes various types of deliberate destruction or defacement of property, usually related to tampering equipment, vandalism, and other examples of malicious damage. Depending on the situation and the value of the damage, the offense can be pursued as either a Class 1 misdemeanor or a Class 6 felony.
Civil Liability as an Added Consequence
In any property crime, it is important to remember that someone has been deprived of their rightful property, whether it be through removal, lack of access, or destruction. While those charged need to be concerned with the possible criminal penalties, like substantial fines and time behind bars, these alleged offenders also need to contend with possible civil litigation, where the victims can pursue financial compensation for the losses they incurred.
When combined with the criminal consequences and the stigma attached to a property crimes conviction, having the added responsibility of being held financially responsible can have a significant and long–lasting impact on your life. That’s why it is important to consult a knowledgeable defense attorney with extensive experience handling property and trespassing crimes, who can explain what you are really up against and how you can avoid the pitfalls of the criminal justice system.
How Can I Defend Myself Against a Property Crime?
A critical element in all property and trespassing crimes is the offender’s level of intent. Essentially, the prosecution must demonstrate that you purposely set out to trespass or damage someone else’s property. For example, it needs to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you intentionally entered land or a structure known to be off-limits to be convicted of trespassing or you maliciously started a fire with the desire to cause damage to support an arson conviction.
A skilled criminal defense lawyer will review every aspect of the property crime you are accused of and all the available evidence to craft a defense strategy that casts doubt or outright rebukes your intent. Some common defenses that our Roanoke criminal defense attorneys may utilize in your case may include, but are not limited to:
- Your Actions Were Authorized or Justified – We may be able to demonstrate that you were permitted or lawfully allowed to use or enter the property in question or your conduct was necessary in an emergency. Your attorney may raise this defense if you entered a restricted area to rescue a person in distress or had permission from the owner to use the property.
- You Were Threatened or Under Duress – This might apply if you engaged in some sort of criminal behavior as a direct result of force or the threat of violence and a sensible person in the same position would have done the same thing. For instance, your lawyer could possibly use this argument if an individual held you at knife point until you started a fire in a building because your assailant had a prior disagreement with the rightful owner.
- You Did Not Follow Through – If you decided against participating in a crime before it took place and made a real effort to stop the offense, your lawyer could potentially show you did not have the necessary desire to commit the crime and actually tried to prevent it from occurring. An example would be if you were with a group that wanted to break the windows of a business, but you attempted to dissuade the others and did not participate.
Contact a Roanoke Property Crimes Lawyer Right Away
As experienced Virginia criminal defense attorneys, at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico we fully realize there is typically more than one side to a story involving property and trespassing crimes. We are passionate about helping you tell yours.
If you are accused of a property or trespassing –related offense, our Roanoke lawyers will tenaciously work to identify any mitigating factors or valid defense strategies, which we will aggressively use to protect your rights and obtain the best possible outcome.
Call us today at (540) 343-9349 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.