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Property Crimes in California

While the term property crimes gets tossed around by the media, in California, you aren’t going to be charged with a “property crime.” The reason for this is because, in California, the phrase property crime is actually a blanket term that’s used to describe multiple crimes.

The four most common property crimes in California are:

  • Arson
  • Theft
  • Burglary
  • Vandalism

If the media says that you have been charged with one or more property crimes, it means you’ve been charged with one or more of these offenses.

Arson is pretty self-explanatory. Arson happens when you deliberately set fire to a property. In California, arson is always a felony. If you’re convicted, you will spend anywhere from 16 months to nine years in prison. One of the big factors that determines how long you’re incarcerated includes if you set fire to your own personal property, if the burned structure was inhabited, and if anyone suffered a serious injury as a result of the fire.

One of the interesting things about arson is that it’s the only property crime you can be charged with, even when the property is your own.

There are multiple types of theft charges in California. For a theft to be considered a property crime, it had to have been committed on someone else’s property. Examples of theft that fall into the category of property crime include:

  • Shoplifting
  • Grand theft auto
  • Robbery
  • Embezzlement
  • Package theft

Whether your charges are for misdemeanor theft or felony theft depends on the collective value of what was stolen. If the property was less than $900, you’d only face misdemeanor theft charges. If it exceeded $900, you’d be charged with a felony.

Most people not only think of burglary as a property crime but also as a violent crime. To be charged with burglary in California, not only do you have to break into someone’s property (house, barn, shed, storage unit), but you have to do so for the purpose of stealing something. If you’re convicted of second-degree or first-degree burglary in California, you’ll face up to 20 years in a California state prison.

Vandalism, while serious, is often considered the most minor of California’s property crimes. Vandalism is simply the destruction of someone else’s property. To be convicted of vandalism in California, you had to intentionally create the damage and knew the property wasn’t yours. The degree of punishment connected to vandalism in California depends on how much damage was caused. Restitution is often part of the sentence.