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In Arizona, property crimes can include theft, burglary, vandalism, and arson. Depending on the severity of the offense, individuals may face a range of penalties, from a class 1 misdemeanor to felony charges.

Seeking legal guidance from a firm like the Law Office of Daniel Hutto can be helpful in building a strong defense against criminal charges. With the expertise of an experienced attorney, individuals can better handle the legal process and potentially mitigate the consequences of an offense.

Here’s what this article will cover:

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Types of Property Crimes in Arizona

Property crimes in Arizona are diverse. Here are some of the most common types:

Burglary

Defined under ARS §13-1506 to §13-1508, burglary involves entering or remaining unlawfully in a residential or commercial space with the intent to commit theft or any felony. There are three degrees:

  • First-degree Burglary (ARS §13-1508) involves the use of a weapon and is a class 2 felony when involving a residence.
  • Second-degree Burglary (ARS §13-1507) relates to unlawful entry into a residential structure, classified as a class 3 felony.
  • Third-degree Burglary (ARS §13-1506) pertains to non-residential structures and is a class 4 felony.

Theft

Theft, under ARS §13-1802, is an umbrella term for crimes involving the unauthorized taking of property to deprive the rightful owner permanently. Theft can range from petty theft, where the property’s value is minimal, to grand theft involving significant amounts or high-value items.

Criminal Damage

Criminal damage to property, per ARS §13-1602, includes knowingly damaging another person’s property. This can range from minor vandalism, such as graffiti, to severe damage like arson. Penalties vary widely based on the damage extent and the cost of repairs or replacement.

Trespass

Trespassing, covered by ARS §13-1502 to §13-1504, involves the unlawful entry onto the property of another person. This can be charged as:

  • Criminal Trespass in the First Degree (ARS §13-1504): A class 6 felony if entering a residential area or a critical public service facility.
  • Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree (ARS §13-1503): A class 2 misdemeanor for unlawfully entering a non-residential fenced-in area.
  • Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree (ARS §13-1502): A class 3 misdemeanor when knowingly entering any real property after a reasonable request to leave.

Auto Theft

Specifically addressed under ARS §13-1814, auto theft involves the unauthorized taking of another’s motor vehicle. Arizona experiences a high rate of vehicle thefts, which significantly impacts victims and influences insurance rates across the state.

Arson

Arson, defined under ARS §13-1703 and §13-1704, involves the intentional burning of property, including structures, forest land, and personal property. It is classified based on the intended target:

  • Arson of a Structure (ARS §13-1704): A class 2 or 3 felony, depending on whether the structure was occupied.
  • Arson of Property (ARS §13-1703): The severity ranges from a class 4 felony to a misdemeanor, depending on the property’s value and the damage caused.

man committing theft by pick pocketing

What Is the Most Common Form of Property Crime?

In Arizona, the most common form of property crime is theft, particularly larceny-theft, which involves the unlawful taking of personal property without force.

Larceny-theft, which includes crimes such as shoplifting, pickpocketing, and theft from vehicles, constitutes about 60% of all property crimes in the state.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

This prevalence is significantly higher than other property crimes such as burglary and motor vehicle theft, which involve illegal entry into a structure and the theft of vehicles respectively, and collectively account for approximately 26% of property crimes. 

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What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor Property Crime and a Felony Property Crime?

In Arizona, the distinction between misdemeanor and felony property crimes is primarily based on the severity of the act, the value of the property involved, and the presence of aggravating circumstances. 

Misdemeanor Property Crimes

Misdemeanor property crimes are generally considered less severe and involve lesser value property. The penalties for misdemeanors are less harsh compared to felonies and can include fines, probation, and short-term incarceration in a local jail.

Examples include:

  • Petty Theft: This is typically classified as the theft of property worth less than a specific dollar amount, often $1,000 or less. An example would be shoplifting small items from a retail store.
  • Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree: This involves entering or remaining unlawfully on a property without serious intent to commit a felony. For instance, wandering into a restricted area of a public park.
  • Vandalism Involving Minor Property Damage: Such as spray-painting a fence or breaking a small window, where repair costs are relatively low.

Felony Property Crimes

Felony property crimes involve more significant harm or higher value property and can result in severe penalties including long-term imprisonment, larger fines, and more substantial restitution orders. These crimes are often premeditated or involve serious breaches of security.

Examples include:

  • Burglary of a Residence: Breaking into someone’s home, regardless of whether high-value items are stolen, this is typically treated as a felony due to the violation of residential security.
  • Theft of Property Over a Certain Value: In Arizona, theft of property worth more than $1,000 can be classified as a felony, with the severity increasing with the value of the property taken.
  • Aggravated Vandalism: Such as arson or causing extensive damage to a building or vehicle, which incurs high repair costs.

In conclusion, the distinction between misdemeanor and felony property crimes in Arizona depends on factors such as the value of the property affected, the intent and circumstances of the offense, and the damage incurred.

What are the Penalties for Committing a Property Crime?

In Arizona, the penalties for committing a property crime vary widely based on the nature of the crime, the value of the property involved, the criminal history of the defendant, and other aggravating or mitigating circumstances. 

 Here’s an overview of how these penalties are typically structured:

Misdemeanor Property Crimes

Misdemeanor property crimes generally involve less serious offenses or lower-value property. Penalties for misdemeanors include:

  • Class 1 Misdemeanor: This is the most serious misdemeanor category, which can include theft of property worth less than $1,000 (not including items like firearms). Penalties can include up to 6 months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, and probation.
  • Class 2 Misdemeanor: For less severe thefts or damage, with penalties up to 4 months in jail and a fine of up to $750.
  • Class 3 Misdemeanor: The least severe misdemeanors, often involving very minor theft or damage, with penalties including up to 30 days in jail and a fine of $500.

Felony Property Crimes

Felony property crimes are more serious and involve higher-value property or more significant damage. They can also include offenses that pose a greater threat to public safety, such as arson. 

  • Class 2 Felony: For serious crimes such as armed burglary, penalties can include up to 12.5 years in prison for a first offense.
  • Class 3 Felony: Includes offenses like burglary of a non-residential structure and can carry a sentence of up to 8.75 years for first-time offenders.
  • Class 4 Felony: Typically includes auto theft and property theft/damage exceeding $4,000. Penalties can include up to 3.75 years in prison.
  • Class 5 Felony: For theft of property valued between $2,000 and $4,000, with a potential prison term of up to 2.5 years.
  • Class 6 Felony: The least severe felony, for thefts involving property valued between $1,000 and $2,000, can result in a prison term of up to 2 years.

Additional Consequences

Beyond the basic legal penalties of fines and incarceration, individuals convicted of felony property crimes may also face longer-term consequences, including:

  • Restitution: Offenders may be required to pay restitution to the victims, compensating them for their losses and damages.
  • Probation: Depending on the crime’s circumstances and the offender’s history, probation may be ordered instead of or in addition to incarceration.
  • Permanent Record: Felony convictions will appear on an individual’s permanent criminal record, which can affect future employment opportunities, the ability to obtain certain professional licenses, and eligibility for public benefits.

Aggravating Factors

Certain aggravating factors can lead to enhanced penalties, including the use of a weapon, the commission of the crime in the presence of a minor, a prior criminal record, or if the crime involved a breach of trust (such as embezzlement).

possession of burglary tools

Can I Be Charged With Multiple Property Crimes?

In Arizona, it is entirely possible for an individual to be charged with multiple property crimes stemming from a single incident or multiple incidents. This can occur when several unlawful actions are involved, each violating different statutes. 

When multiple crimes are committed, the charges can compound, leading to more severe penalties if convicted.

For instance, consider a scenario where an individual unlawfully enters a warehouse with the intent to commit theft. This situation could potentially lead to the following charges:

     Burglary: Simply by unlawfully entering the structure with the intent to commit theft, the individual commits burglary. Depending on whether the structure is a dwelling and whether any weapons are involved, this could be classified as first, second, or third-degree burglary.

      ➤Theft : If the individual successfully steals property, a theft charge would apply. The severity of the theft charge depends on the value of the property stolen, with higher values possibly elevating the charge to a felony level.

     ➤Criminal Damage: If during the incident, the individual damages any property (e.g., breaking a window to gain entry), this could lead to a criminal damage charge. The severity again depends on the extent and cost of the damage.

     ➤Possession of Burglary Tools: If the individual possesses any tools that facilitate the burglary (such as lock picks or a crowbar), they can also be charged with possession of burglary tools, which is a separate offense.

The cumulative effect of these charges can be significant. Each charge carries its own set of penalties, and when combined, the overall penalty can be substantial, potentially including long-term imprisonment, hefty fines, and a permanent criminal record. 

Defense Strategies From a Criminal Defense Attorney 

In Arizona, a strong defense strategy is essential when facing property crime charges, whether misdemeanor or felony.

A criminal defense attorney can employ various tactics to challenge the prosecution’s case, mitigate potential penalties, or possibly secure an acquittal.

Here are some commonly used strategies:

Challenging the Evidence

One of the primary approaches is to scrutinize the evidence presented by the prosecution. This can involve questioning the validity, integrity, and origin of the evidence:

Lack of Evidence: Demonstrating that the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.

Contesting Ownership or Value: Arguing that the property was not owned by the alleged victim or that the value of the property does not meet the threshold for the charged offense.

Proving Lack of Intent

Since many property crimes require intent to commit the offense as an element of the crime, proving the absence of this intent can be a powerful defense:

Mistake: Showing that the defendant mistakenly believed they had a right to the property or did not intend to commit a crime.

Accident: Arguing that any damage or loss of property was accidental and not a result of the defendant’s deliberate actions.

Establishing an Alibi

An alibi defense involves proving that the defendant was elsewhere when the crime occurred and therefore could not have committed the alleged offense:

Surveillance Footage: Using video evidence to establish the defendant’s location.

Witness Testimony: Credible witnesses who can vouch for the defendant’s whereabouts can significantly strengthen an alibi.

Coercion or Duress

This defense asserts that the defendant committed the property crime under pressure or threats from another person:

Threat of Harm: Evidence that the defendant was forced to commit the crime to avoid immediate harm to themselves or someone else.

Use of Expert Testimonies

Experts can play a critical role in defense, particularly in complex property crime cases involving valuation of property, forensic evidence, or technical aspects related to burglary tools and methods:

Forensic Analysts: Can refute how evidence was collected, handled, or interpreted.

Property Valuation Experts: May contest the estimated value of stolen or damaged property to influence the severity of the charges.

Constitutional Violations

Identifying procedural errors or violations of constitutional rights can result in evidence being suppressed or even in dismissal of charges:

Illegal Search and Seizure: Arguing that evidence was obtained through a violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Miranda Rights Violation: Demonstrating that the defendant was not properly advised of their rights during the arrest process which can affect the admissibility of evidence.

Contact a Phoenix Property Crime Lawyer

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Daniel Hutto, the founder of the Law Office of Daniel Hutto, is renowned for his expertise and effective defense strategies in handling both misdemeanor and felony cases. 

Clients considering Daniel Hutto’s legal services are offered a free initial consultation to discuss their case confidentially. This session is an opportunity to explore potential defenses and plan the next steps without any obligations. 

Contact the Law Office of Daniel Hutto at 602 536-7878. to schedule a consultation and ensure that your rights are defended throughout the legal process.

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