The 3 Most Common Types Of Property Crimes
The category of property crimes in criminal law covers a wide range of offenses. It includes common crimes relating to theft and/or destruction of someone else’s property all the way up to armed robbery and arson. With that said, there are some property crimes that are far more common than others.
The most common types of property crimes are theft, burglary, and robbery. And while many people (and popular entertainment) use those terms interchangeably, from a legal standpoint they are three separate types of crimes.
For those who have been charged with one or more of these crimes, it’s very important to understand the legal distinctions between each. The exact type of offense charged and the degree of the crime’s severity can have a big impact on the penalties a defendant will receive if convicted.
Theft is commonly defined as the unauthorized taking of property from another with the intent to permenently deprive them of it.
There are two degrees of theft, called petty theft and grand theft. The degree a defendant is charged with usually depends on what type of property was stolen and how much the property was worth.
Petty Theft: Commonly charged when the value of the item or items stolen is below a certain amount as specified by law. For example, property worth less than $1,000 would likely fall into petty theft category. Petty theft is usually charged as a misdemeanor.
Grand Theft: Grand theft is charged in cases where the value of the item or items stolen exceeds the limit set for petty theft. Grand theft is a felony in all states, including California. Penalties for conviction of grand theft are much more severe.
Burglary is defined as the unlawful entry into almost any structure with the intent to commit a crime inside (not just theft). Breaking and entering are not required for burglary either, simple trespassing through an open or unlocked door is enough.
So, for example, if a person walks into their neighbor’s unlocked front door and destroys all their furniture, but doesn’t take anything – that would still constitute burglary.
The key component of a burglary charge is that there must be crime separate from the crime of gaining entry onto the premises where the crime is committed. If a person breaks into a house but doesn’t commit any additional crime once inside, then the requirements for burglary have not been met.
The easiest way to explain robbery is that it is theft accomplished by violence or the threat of violence. Unlike theft and burglary, a robbery charge requires a victim who suffered bodily harm or was threatened with bodily harm.
If a weapon such as a gun or a knife is used during a robbery, the robbery may be charged as “armed” or “aggravated”.
The use of threat or force doesn’t need to be excessive or severe. If even a small about of violence or intimidation is used to coerce someone to turn over property, then a robbery has occurred.
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