Most property offenses in New York have severe direct and indirect penalties. A Rochester criminal defense attorney can reduce or eliminate these penalties. That’s because there are a number of defenses to most property crimes.

The idea that private property is a fundamental right probably goes back to John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, which he published in 1690.[1] Thomas Jefferson incorporated much of Locke’s writings into the Declaration of Independence. These ideas found their way into the Constitution as well.

So, as far as the Founding Fathers were concerned, offenses like burglary and arson were every bit as serious as offenses like assault and murder. The right to life and the right to property are both inalienable human rights.

What Are Some Basic Property Crimes?

Typically, property crimes are nonviolent crimes. But “nonviolent” is not synonymous with “nonserious.” All of the offenses below could mean substantial jail or prison time.

Fraud Charges

Most fraud crimes involve not only an unlawful taking of property but also a breach of personal or business trust. Examples include mortgage fraud, credit or debit card fraud, and lending fraud.

Burglary Charges

This offense is one of the most complex property crimes in New York. The traditional “breaking and entering” elements are very broad. Walking through an open door could be considered breaking, and reaching into an open box could be considered entering.

Arson Charges

The actus rea (criminal act) is usually rather straightforward in these cases. Any fire damage to any structure is normally arson. The mens rea (criminal state of mind) element is much more difficult to prove in court.

In court, the state must prove every element of every offense beyond a reasonable doubt. New York defines this phrase as “an honest doubt of the defendant’s guilt for which a reason exists based upon the nature and quality of the evidence.”[2]

What are Some Property Crime Defenses?

Like most other crimes, property crimes could involve procedural and substantive defenses. Some common defenses are outlined below.

Commonly, police officers question suspects before they arrest them for property crime. Officers must inform these suspects of their Miranda rights (you have the right to remain silent, etc.) before custodial interrogation begins. “Custody” means the defendant does not feel free to leave; “interrogation” means asking any question at all. So, in most cases, custodial interrogation begins very early in the process, perhaps as soon as an officer approaches a stopped car.

Since the burden of proof is so high, the property owner’s testimony is usually critical. Therefore, delay might be critical as well. Over time, witness’ memories fade. Additionally, over time, many witnesses relocate beyond a Monroe County judge’s subpoena power. If that happens the prosecutor might not be able to call the witness at all.

How Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Resolve These Cases?

Most judges hold pretrial hearings to determine what evidence is admissible at trial. That’s especially true if a criminal defense attorney raises an issue like failure to Mirandize the defendant or an illegal search warrant. The less evidence the prosecutor has, the easier it is to obtain a favorable resolution.

Pretrial diversion is normally an option in property crime cases. Program requirements vary, but generally, if the defendant pays restitution and completes some other program requirements, prosecutors dismiss the case.

Deferred adjudication is similar. The defendant pleads guilty and the judge places the defendant on probation. If the defendant successfully completes probation, the judge dismisses the case. Unlike pretrial diversion, however, deferred adjudication has some significant pros and cons.

The bottom line is that, in many cases, a criminal defense attorney can obtain a favorable result without risking a trial.

Contact a Dedicated Criminal Defense Attorney

Property crimes are quite serious, but there are a number of possible defenses. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. Home and jail visits are available.





The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.

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