The Line between Property Crimes and Violent Crimes in CO
Posted By: Jacob Martinez
Property crimes consist of a broad range of offenses that involve the theft, destruction, or damage to property. Property crimes range in severity from low-level misdemeanors to quite serious felonies that can be punishable by decades behind bars.
Crimes against property are charged based on the property damaged or stolen, and with the exception of robbery, do not typically involve a show or threat of force against someone. However, property crimes can quickly turn violent, even if the defendant’s original intent was not to commit a violent crime.
Generally, any violence that results from a property crime will be charged separately, and these charges are likely to be much more severe than the property crime itself. In some cases, the line between violent crimes and property crimes can be surprisingly thin – and have profound consequences for the accused.
Below, we’re going to review four Colorado property crimes that frequently escalate to violence, and what consequences you could face if charged with a violent crime rather than one against property.
Arson is a serious offense that involves setting fire to or using explosives to destroy property, whether for the purpose of insurance fraud or out of malicious intent. Generally, Colorado arson crimes involve residential property or businesses, but you can also face arson charges for setting fire to a boat, forest, or other structure.
If the building or structure is occupied at the time of the offense, arson can easily cross the line into violent crime. This could be charged as attempted murder, or even murder or manslaughter if someone is killed as a result of the offense. If victims sustain injuries as a result of the fire, you could also be charged with aggravated assault.
The penalties for these serious crimes will depend on the circumstances of the alleged offense, but generally you can expect at least a decade in prison and thousands in criminal fines for an arson that results in bodily harm to another.
Colorado law defines burglary as an unlawful entry into a residence or other structure with the intent of committing a crime after gaining entry. Although burglary is typically associated with theft, it may be tied to other offenses such as assault, murder, or vandalism.
If burglary was committed with the intent of harming someone once gaining entry, this clearly crosses the line into violent crime, and you will also face charges for assault, attempted assault, and potentially even murder or attempted murder.
What if you did not intend to hurt anyone, though? What if you unexpectedly encountered an occupant, and the situation escalated to violence? In this case, the home invasion crosses the line into personal crimes, in addition to charges for unlawful entry.
Generally, if a home invasion escalates to violence, you will face charges for whatever violence transpired, even if you were reacting to a show of force by the occupant. The logic here is that you would not have needed to defend yourself had you not committed the original offense of burglary.
Trespassing also involves unlawful entry into the property of another, but it differs from burglary in that it generally does not involve the intention to commit a crime after gaining entry.
Like burglary, trespassing can also go awry unexpectedly if you encounter an occupant in the midst of the offense, and respond to a show of force with violence. In this case, you will also face charges for whatever violent acts transpire.
Robbery differs from other theft crimes in that it involves the use of force or the threat of force in order to steal something of value from the victim. If you use or claim to be armed with a deadly weapon in the commission of a robbery, you will face the enhanced charge of aggravated robbery.
Due to the nature of the offense, robberies often escalate to violence, even if you did not originally intend to actually harm anyone. A robbery can become violent if the victim attempts to deter the defendant with a show of force, or simply if the defendant panics and commits a violent act.
If you inflict violence in the commission of a robbery, you will face charges for whatever violence transpired. Common charges include assault and aggravated assault, although other charges may be pressed depending on the circumstances of the offense.
In short, there are a number of ways that Colorado property crimes can escalate to violence, even if the defendant did not originally intend to commit a violent crime. However, regardless of intent, you can and will be held accountable for any violence that transpires in the commission of a property crime.
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.