Common Property Crimes in Tampa
Property crimes are intentional criminal acts resulting in the taking or destruction of someone else’s property without their consent. This includes offenses such as:
Florida statutes outline two trespassing offenses. Trespass in structure or conveyance occurs when an unauthorized individual enters or remains in any structure or conveyance. This applies to buildings, vehicles, and other dwellings and is often charged as a second-degree misdemeanor.
Trespass on property other than structure or conveyance applies to any place that isn’t a building, such as someone’s private land that is fenced or posted with “no trespassing” signs. This offense is usually a second-degree misdemeanor charge.
To be convicted of criminal trespass, the prosecution must show that you willfully and knowingly entered or remained on someone else’s property without their permission. You could also be guilty of trespassing if you refused to leave the property after being asked to by the owner.
While trespassing is often charged as a misdemeanor, some aggravating factors can heighten the charge, such as trespassing on a marked construction site or being armed with a firearm or other weapon.
Criminal Mischief and Vandalism
Criminal mischief covers several offenses that involve someone willfully damaging another person’s property. This might include spraying graffiti, slashing someone’s car tires, or breaking a window. These charges are prevalent in juvenile court when teenagers take pranks too far.
You could face even more serious charges for institutional or memorial vandalism. Institutional vandalism applies to anyone who “who willfully and maliciously defaces, injures, or damages by any means any church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship, or any religious article…” Vandalizing a church or other religious institution could result in a felony charge. The same could also apply to anyone who “willfully and maliciously defaces, injures, or otherwise damages by any means a memorial or historic property.”
Arson is a specific type of property destruction intentionally caused by fire or explosives. Arson can be committed for many reasons, such as concealing another crime or as part of an insurance fraud scheme to collect money on destroyed property. Whatever the motivation, arson is one of the most serious property crime charges, usually resulting in a felony. An intentional fire can permanently damage or destroy thousands of square feet of property and pose a severe risk to anyone nearby or dwelling on the property.
Theft and Burglary
Similar to criminal mischief charges, theft crimes in Florida can be charged under several statutes, such as:
- Grand theft
- Employee theft (embezzlement)
- Petit theft
- Larceny and shoplifting
Burglary is another offense under Section 810.02 of the Florida Statutes. Many states define burglary as an unlawful entry onto someone’s property intending to commit a property-related offense, such as stealing valuables. However, Florida’s burglary statute is unique in that it only requires an “entry” onto the property with the intent to commit “an offense.”
This language is much broader and doesn’t necessarily require forced entry to apply. Several factors can elevate a burglary charge to a serious felony, such as if a weapon was used when committing the offense or if an assault or battery occurred.
Possible Penalties for Tampa Property Crimes
Since property crimes range in severity and damage, you could face a number of punishments based on the charges you face:
- Second-degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a maximum fine of $500.
- First-degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.
- A third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.
- A second-degree felony is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
- A first-degree felony is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Many property crimes can be charged at multiple levels depending on the facts of the case. For example, you could face more severe charges if the alleged offense caused thousands of dollars’ worth of damage or took place at a protected institution such as a church or memorial.
In addition to the criminal penalties that could accompany a property offense conviction, you could face other collateral consequences, including:
- Restitution to the property owner
- A permanent criminal record
- Difficulty finding and maintaining employment and housing
- Additional punishments at school
- A negative effect on your reputation
While the potential consequences might seem overwhelming, know you have several options to fight the charges against you.
Defending Against Property Crime Allegations in Tampa
Whether you’re facing a misdemeanor or felony charge, an aggressive Tampa property crimes attorney can make the difference between you being convicted and keeping your freedom. An attorney can fight for your charges to be reduced or dismissed altogether.
Property crimes are often lower-level charges and misdemeanors. Your attorney can advocate for you to face alternative punishments, such as probation or community service rather than jail time. But a more aggressive defense strategy may be warranted for more serious charges. Potential defense strategies might include the following:
- Challenging the constitutionality of your arrest.
- Challenging evidence as a result of an unlawful search or seizure.
- Establishing that the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to convict you.
- Proving you had consent from the property owner.
- Arguing that you lacked intent to commit the crime.
- Showing you were falsely accused or that there has been a mistake in identity.
Most property crime charges require the prosecution to prove that you entered the property knowingly without permission and intended to commit wrongdoing. If your attorney can show weaknesses in the evidence against you, the prosecution may not have a strong enough case to convict.