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Property crimes involve the theft, destruction or unlawful entrance into the property of another. In Colorado, there are many criminal offenses that fall under this category. Some of the most commonly charged property crimes include arson, burglary, and robbery.
If you are currently facing a property crime charge, it is important to consult with an experienced Colorado defense attorney as soon as possible to make sure that your rights are protected, and to start building the best possible defense.
Below we are going to detail several property crimes and a number of defense strategies that can used to defend against each one.
Arson is defined as intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly setting fire or using an explosive to damage or destroy your own property, or damage or destroy another party’s property without that party’s consent. If you are facing an arson charge, it is imperative to immediately consult not only with an experienced defense attorney, but also a private fire investigator.
The severity of an arson charge depends upon whether the property was occupied, the intent of the crime, and the severity of the damage. For a successful arson conviction, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the fire was set intentionally, and that the defendant started or otherwise caused the fire. Therefore the two most common defenses hinge upon this burden of truth.
Accidental Causes. The police investigators and insurance company experts will have already investigated the scene thoroughly before charges are brought, but their word isn’t necessarily final. A good fire investigator will examine every conclusion of the official investigation, including that the fire was intentional. If he or she finds evidence that it was accidental, this can help your case enormously.
Mistaken Identity and Alibi. Because arson cases tend to be very high-profile, law enforcement faces a lot of pressure to make an arrest. Mistaken identity is a very common defense for arson, as there are frequently no witnesses, and very rarely is an arrest made at the scene of the crime.
Further, if the defendant has an alibi, and can prove that he or she was elsewhere when the criminal act allegedly occurred, then it would have been impossible to commit the crime.
Burglary involves unlawfully entering a property with the intent to commit a criminal act while inside. In Colorado, burglary charges hinge on the traditional components of unlawful entry and criminal intent. There are three degrees of burglary, and the severity of your charges depends upon the type of structure involved, which crimes were intended (and actually took place), and whether weapons were used.
Defenses for burglary generally hinge upon whether the defendant actually committed the crime, whether the entry was unlawful, coercion, and consent of the plaintiff.
Insufficient evidence. If the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence that the defendant committed the crime, or the defendant has an alibi, it may be possible to build a defense for actual innocence.
Lawful Entry. If the defendant was granted permission to enter the premise, then the entry was not illegal, so burglary did not occur. It should be noted that unforced entry, such as through an unlocked door, is still unlawful. Also, even if the defendant entered the premises lawfully, he or she is likely to still be charged with any crimes committed while on the premise.
Intent to Commit a Crime. If the defendant did not actually intend to commit a crime upon entry, then the offense is not a burglary. If the defendant was intoxicated, it may be possible to argue that he or she was incapable of forming an intent at the time of entry.
Robbery is a serious crime, usually involving both theft, and violence or the threat of violence. Burglary generally occurs outside of the victim’s presence of awareness, while robbery involves the offender’s use of force or threat to take property from the victim.
Defenses for robbery generally hinge upon whether the defendant actually committed the crime, and whether the defendant was entrapped or coerced into committing it. Intoxication may also be used as a defense.
Innocence. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. If evidence such as surveillance footage or witness statements are lacking or inconsistent, this may be used to build a defense. Also, if the defendant has an alibi for the time of the alleged offense, this can also be used to claim innocence.
Intoxication. A defendant may offer proof of intoxication as an affirmative defense to a robbery charge. However, in Colorado, the defendant must be intoxicated against his or her will or without his or her knowledge.
Entrapment or Duress. If the defendant is coerced into committing a robbery that they would not otherwise have committed, it is possible to make an entrapment or duress defense. These defenses are somewhat more difficult to prove.
In entrapment, the defense must prove that the victim somehow instigated the event either to bring charges against the defendant or for some other personal gain. With duress, the defense must prove that a third party forced the defendant to commit the robbery under the threat of bodily injury.
Which defense strategy is best for you depends not only on the crime you are accused of committing, but also the specifics of the situation. Reach out to a knowledgeable Colorado property crimes attorney now to go over the details of your case and start discussing what options are available to you.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.