Trespassing and Property Damage Defense Lawyers
If you were arrested for trespassing or property damage in North Carolina, you will need the counsel of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. While these charges may not seem as serious in comparison to robbery or burglary charges, they can still result in harsh consequences if you are not defended by experienced counsel. While many of these crimes are punished as misdemeanors, some can result in a low-level felony conviction. Either way, a conviction of a misdemeanor is still a serious matter and you should seek skilled legal representation to protect your rights and freedom.
If you are facing an investigation or charges for any trespassing or property damage crime, you should contact the criminal defense attorneys at Tarlton | Polk. Our lawyers have the experience to fight these charges in trial and have them heavily reduced or completely dropped.
Trespassing Laws in North Carolina
Generally speaking, trespassing is the crime of entering or remaining in the land or property of another person without their permission. North Carolina law recognizes four types of trespass crimes, as described below.
A person is guilty of first-degree trespass when they enter or remain on a property without authorization, which is enclosed or secured in a way that clearly demonstrates an intent to keep out intruders. Essentially, this crime applies to situations where a person enters a property without consent of the owner when they had to bypass an enclosure or security to do so. A conviction of this crime is punished as a class 2 misdemeanor.
There is a caveat to this crime that can occur between landlords and their tenants. If a lease agreement does not explicitly deny the tenant the authority to invite others onto the property, any person the tenant invites to the property will not be guilty of trespassing even if the landlord told them not to enter.
A person is guilty of second-degree trespass when they enter or remain on another person’s property without authorization and either of the following are true:
- The person was notified not to enter or remain there by the owner, a lawful occupant, a person in charge of the property, or another authorized person.
- There is a posted notice not to enter the premises that they were reasonably likely to come across.
The key difference between this crime and first-degree trespass is that first-degree trespass involves a physical barrier or security while second degree trespass only requires that the person was informed in some reasonably capacity that they were not authorized to enter or remain on the premises. A conviction of this crime is punished as a class 3 misdemeanor.
Domestic Criminal Trespass
This crime exists separately from other forms of trespass to deal with issues of domestic disputes and property between spouses or people who have lived as if married.
A person is guilty of this crime if they enter the premises occupied by their present or former spouse or person they lived with as married at a time when they were living apart, and the lawful occupant forbid them to enter or ordered them to leave.
Essentially, if a person no longer has authorization to be at the property they once inhabited with a present or former spouse or partner, and decides to enter or remain on that property against the order of its lawful occupant, they will be guilty of this crime. It is not required that the lawful occupant ordering them to leave or not enter be the former or present spouse or partner. It could, for example, be that person’s parent or new partner or spouse. The property does, however, need to be occupied by the former or present spouse or partner for this crime to be applicable.
This crime is punished as a class 1 misdemeanor under most circumstances, but can be a class G felony if the property was operated as a safe house for victims of domestic violence, or if the offender was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of the offense.
There is one exception to this crime that occurs when the judicial order of separation or written separation agreement allows the alleged offenders to visit his or her children on the property at an authorized time. This presumably means that a person entered the property at an unauthorized time to see his or her children, they could be guilty of this crime.
A person is guilty of this offense when they commit trespass when the occupant is present on the premises and in peaceful possession of it, and that person commits any of the following against the occupant:
- uses force against the occupant
- threatens to use force against them
- appears so as to inspire fear in the occupant
A conviction of this offense is punished as a class 1 misdemeanor.
Property Damage Offenses in North Carolina
Property damage offenses encompass any offense that involves damaging, injuring or destroying another person’s property. North Carolina law recognizes four main types of property damage crimes.
Injury to Real Property
A person is guilty of this offense when they willfully and wantonly damage, injure or destroy the “real” property of another. “Real” property is defined as land and anything affixed to it or part of it, such as buildings, fences, water, minerals in the ground, and anything growing from the land.
A conviction of this crime is punished as a class 1 misdemeanor.
Injury to Personal Property
A person is guilty of this crime when they willfully and wantonly injure the personal property of another. Personal property includes money, goods, chattels, or rights to any property.
A conviction of this crime is punished as a class 2 misdemeanor if the property damage is worth $200 or less, and a class 1 misdemeanor if it exceeds $200.
Defacing a Public Building, Statute, or Monument
A person is guilty of this offense if they write on, mark , deface, or injure the walls of any public building, facility, statue, or monument in a public place. “Public building or facility” here includes any building that is owned or controlled by the state and to which the public has access or a portion of access to, or dedicated to the general public for purposes primarily related to public recreation or other events of a public nature.
A conviction of this crime is punished as a class 2 misdemeanor.
Damage to Computer Offenses
A person is guilty of this crime when they alter, damage or destroy a computer, computer program, computer system, computer network, or any other part of a computer, willfully and without authorization to do so.
There are three possible classes of punishment for this crime depending on the circumstances:
- If the computer did not belong to the government and the damages were $1,000 or less, a conviction is punished as a class 1 misdemeanor.
- If the computer did not belong to the government and the damages exceeded $1,000, a conviction is punished as a class G felony.
- If the computer belonged to the government, a conviction is punished as a class F felony, regardless of the cost of damages.
Defending Against Trespassing and Property Damage Charges
For prosecution to convict you of trespassing or property damage, they have the burden of proof to show that you committed all the required elements of the crime. With a skilled lawyer, evidence or lack thereof can be challenged at every sensible angle to remain credible and get the court on your side. While every case is unique and some defense approaches will be more appropriate than others, example defenses include:
- Accusations were false or mistaken identity due to the defendant looking similar to the perpetrator’s profile.
- Building was not entered and there was no attempt to enter it (for trespassing).
- The defendant was entering or destroying their own property.
Whatever the defense approach taken is, it should be applicable to the facts of the case. Sometimes it is possible to get all charges dropped, but other times prosecution has enough evidence to convict you of something, so the best approach is to push for a less severe conviction and lighter sentence.
Our lawyers at Tarlton | Polk can go through all the details with you candidly so you can understand why they recommend a certain approach over others so you could make a wise and informed decision. We have successfully represented clients in trespassing and property damage cases and know how to carefully structure a defense based on the facts of the case. Most importantly, we are exceptionally skilled at taking these cases to trial, as we know the tactics used by prosecution that often push the defendant into a plea-bargaining position before a trial begins. If you would like to learn more about how we an help, or request a consultation with us, then leave us a message or call us today.