Property crimes are those involving physical property. In general, they include stealing, unlawfully entering, and damaging or destroying the property of another. In North Carolina, there are a wide variety of criminal offenses that fall under the umbrella of property crimes. Some of the most common property crimes include arson, burglary, and robbery.
If you are facing property crime charges, it is important to consult with an experienced North Carolina defense attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and build the best possible defense.
Below, we’re going to detail common property crime charges, as well as defense strategies that can be used to combat each one, depending on the circumstances of the alleged offense.
Arson is defined as intentionally or recklessly setting fire or using an explosive to damage or destroy your own property, or to damage or destroy the property of another without that party’s permission. Arson is a very serious charge, and requires immediate consultation not only with a defense attorney, but also with a private fire investigator.
To successfully convict you of arson, the prosecution must prove that the fire was started intentionally, and that you started or caused the fire. The most common defenses for arson therefore concern these burdens of truth.
Accidental Causes. Before arson charges are brought, police investigators and insurance experts will already have investigated the scene and determined that the fire was set intentionally. However, these investigators are not always correct.
An independent fire investigator will examine all of the evidence of the official investigation, including the evidence that the fire was started intentionally. If there is evidence that the fire could have been started accidentally, this casts reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s case.
Mistaken Identity and Alibi. Arson cases tend to be very high-profile, placing pressure on law enforcement to name a suspect. However, this is often difficult because arson frequently has no witnesses, and an arrest is very rarely made at the scene of the crime.
It may therefore be possible to make a case for mistaken identity. Further, if you have an alibi, you can argue that you were elsewhere when the fire was allegedly set, and that it would have been impossible to commit the crime.
In the crime of burglary, the defendant unlawfully enters a property with the intent to commit a crime. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you entered the structure unlawfully and without permission, and that you committed or intended to commit a crime.
Defenses for burglary rely on whether the defendant actually committed the offense, whether the defendant entered the structure unlawfully, and whether the defendant intended to commit a crime.
Insufficient Evidence. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you entered the structure. If you were not arrested at the scene of the crime and have an alibi for the time of the alleged burglary, it may be possible to argue actual innocence.
Lawful Entry. If you were given permission to enter the structure, you did not enter it unlawfully, and burglary did not occur. Importantly, unforced entry, such as through an unlocked door, is still unlawful. Also, even if your entry to the property was lawful, you will still be charged with any crimes committed once inside.
Intent to Commit a Crime. If you did not intend to commit a crime after entering the property, the offense is not burglary. Instead, you would be charged with the less-severe property crime of trespassing.
Robbery involves theft of property using violence or the threat of violence. Because it is a violent offense, robbery is a serious charge that has severe criminal and civil consequences.
Defenses for robbery charges are generally built around whether the defendant committed the crime, and whether the defendant was entrapped or coerced into committing the offense. Intoxication may also be used as a defense – though only in rare cases, and only to reduce charges or consequences, not escape them.
Innocence. To successfully convict you of robbery, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the offense. If the prosecution does not have evidence such as surveillance footage or consistent witness statements, it may be possible to build a defense for innocence. This is further strengthened if you have an alibi.
Entrapment or Duress. If you were coerced into committing a robbery that you otherwise would not have committed, an entrapment or duress offense is appropriate. Importantly, these defenses are sometimes difficult to prove.
Intoxication. If you were intoxicated against your will or knowledge, it may be possible to make an intoxication defense. However, voluntary intoxication is generally not a viable defense.
Many of the above-mentioned defense strategies can also be employed to fight other property crime charges, such as theft or destruction of property. The key is employing the best possible strategy based on the specific circumstances of your case.
Facing North Carolina Property Crime Charges?
If you have been accused of a property crime, be aware that this a very serious offense. For charges such as these, you need a skilled North Carolina criminal defense attorney who will leverage his or her knowledge to fight tirelessly for the best possible outcome in your case.
Protect your rights and future by getting in touch with our office today.