Destroying the property of another person is obviously against the law. And although there is no loss of human life involved in property crimes, the state of Pennsylvania takes these crimes very seriously and doles out harsh punishments for those who are convicted of property crime offenses. Make no mistake about it; just because a property crime only involves damage to property does not mean that serious felony charges cannot result. If you have been accused of a property crime, your greatest chance of exoneration for Westmoreland County property crimes is hiring an aggressive vandalism lawyer.
Common Property Crimes in Pennsylvania
There are several crimes that are considered property crimes under Pennsylvania law. Some of the most common property crime charges include:
- Criminal mischief: Intentional, reckless or negligent damage, defacement, or tampering with the property of another person’s property which causes a financial loss or puts someone in danger is known as criminal mischief. Depending on the value of the property and the circumstances surrounding the offense, this type of crime can be classified as a misdemeanor or felony.
- Arson: Recklessly or intentionally starting a fire, causing an explosion, or helping or even paying someone else to is known as arson. This holds true even if the property you ruin belongs to you. This charge can be as minimal as a summary offense or as serious as a first-degree felony, depending on the circumstances of your case.
- Institutional vandalism: Vandalizing, defacing, desecrating or damaging a church, municipal or government facility, cemetery, school or similar institutions constitutes institutional vandalism. Charges range from second-degree misdemeanor to third-degree felony classifications.
- Agricultural vandalism: Causing damage to real or tangible property used in agricultural activities is known as agricultural vandalism. Like institutional vandalism, this type of property crime can be a misdemeanor or felony, based on your particular circumstances.
Penalties for Property Crimes
Pennsylvania courts often hand down significant statutory punishments for defendants convicted of property crimes. While minor property crimes may result in lessened jail time, it is oftentimes the case that a vandalism attorney can negotiate with prosecutors to seek alternate punishments, including counseling, community service, probation or house arrest. The likelihood of receiving a stiffer penalty increases with the severity of the crime. Some potential penalties:
- Summary offenses – up to 90 days incarceration and fines of up to $300.
- Third-degree misdemeanor offenses – up to one year incarceration and fines of up to $2,000.
- Second-degree misdemeanor offenses – up to two years incarceration and fines of up to $5,000.
- First-degree misdemeanor offenses – up to five years incarceration and fines of up to $10,000.
- Third-degree felony offenses – up to seven years incarceration and fines of up to $15,000.
- Second-degree felony offenses – up to 10 years incarceration and fines of up to $25,000.
- First-degree felony offenses – up to 20 years incarceration and fines of up to $25,000.