Property Crimes normally include

    • Arson
    • Criminal Mischief
    • Criminal Trespass
    • Tampering with Evidence
    • Burglary of Habitation
    • Burglary of a Building
    • Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle


Prosecutors typically try to prove Arson using circumstantial and forensic evidence because they will not have witnesses. In Texas, Arson is charged as a felony and the penalties for arson convictions can be severe. Several different situations can result in an arson charge, including fires intended to damage fences, vegetation or structures on open land. Similarly, fires started with intent to damage a home, building or vehicle are considered arson.

Arson Penalties Include:

  • First Degree Felony: Life imprisonment or a term of 5 to 99 years in prison
  • Second Degree Felony: 2 to 20 years in prison
  • Third Degree Felony: 2 to 10 years in prison
  • State Jail Felony: 180 days to 2 years in prison

In addition to the terms of imprisonment listed above, a fine of up to $10,000 may be imposed (regardless of the degree of the felony).


Criminal mischief is charged when someone is accused of damaging, altering, defacing or destroying the property belonging to another person. The level of the offense, whether it is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depends on the value of the monetary loss to the damaged, defaced, altered or destroyed property.

Criminal Mischief Misdemeanors Include:

  • Class A misdemeanor charge: A fine of up to $1,000 and incarceration for up to one year in county jail. This charge is for property damage valued from $500 to $1500.
  • Class B misdemeanor charge: A fine of up to $2,000 and incarceration for up to 180 days in county jail. This charge is for property damage valued at more than $50 but less than $500.
  • Class C misdemeanor charge: A fine of up to $500 but you cannot be sent to jail.

Criminal Mischief Felonies Include:

  • State Jail Felony: When criminal mischief results in damages of $1,500 to $20,000 or if criminal activity involves fire, explosives or damage to livestock fence. This felony includes incarceration in state jail from 180 days to 2 years, and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Third Degree Felony: When criminal mischief results in damage valued from $20,000-$100,000. This felony includes incarceration in prison from 2-10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Second Degree Felony: When damage to property is valued from $100,000-$200,000, This felony includes incarceration in prison for 2-20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.


Criminal trespass is charged when someone enters or remains on or in the property of another person without the consent or against the wishes of the owner. Property may include homes, businesses, farms, aircraft or other vehicles. The level of the offense can be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the location.


Tampering with evidence is defined as altering, fabricating or destroying evidence when you are aware that there is an ongoing investigation. Hiding something that could be pertinent to a case could also lead to a charge. Similarly, you could be facing a charge if you alter documents, records or other items when you have knowledge that they would be useful in an investigation.

The basic elements of tampering with evidence include:

  • Intent
    • In order to move forward with a charge, the prosecution needs to prove that evidence was willfully or purposefully interfered with. Accidental destruction or abandonment is not sufficient in proving intent.
  • Knowledge
    • With a tampering charge, the accused must have believed at the time that their actions would sway the results of an ongoing investigation.
  • Evidence
    • Covering every kind of physical object that could potentially be produced in any kind of legal trial, proceeding, or investigation, including images and video recordings.
  • Awareness of a Potential or Pending Investigation
    • The prosecution must prove the evidence was tampered with in contemplation of a current or future proceeding.

Penalties for Evidence Tampering

Tampering with evidence can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. A conviction may include a combination of the following:

  • Jail for up to 1 year for a misdemeanor conviction.
  • State prison with a maximum sentence of up to 20 years for a felony conviction.
  • Being ordered to pay up to $10,000 on a state conviction.
  • Federal sentencing may include fines and up to 20 years in prison.


Though they are similar, burglary and criminal trespass are two separate crimes in Texas. Burglary, the more serious charge, must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, without consent of the owner, entered a private habitation with the intent to burglarize. The main difference between criminal trespass and burglary is the intent or lack thereof, to commit a felony/theft.

According to Texas Penal Code § 30.01 – § 30.07, burglary is defined as a person who enters a habitation not then open to the public with intent to commit theft. They also remain concealed, with intent to commit theft, or they enter a habitation and commit or attempt to commit theft.

Burglary of a Habitation Offense Classifications

  • First Degree Felony
    • If the premises are a habitation and any party to the offense entered with the intent to commit (or attempted to commit) a felony other than felony theft.
  • Second Degree Felony
    • If committed in a habitation.

Penalties and Sentences

  • First Degree Felony
    • 5 years to life in prison, plus fine.
  • Second Degree Felony
    • 2-20 years in prison, plus a fine of up to $10,000.


All burglary convictions in Texas will depend on whether the individual entered a private building, structure or habitation with the intent to commit a crime within, and without consent of the owner. Unlawful entry and intent to commit a crime are essential pieces in a burglary case. Even if the intended crime was not carried out, an individual can still face charges.

Under Texas Penal Code § 30.02, if an individual unlawfully enters or remains inside a private or public building that is not a habitation with the intent to commit theft, they can be charged with a state jail felony.

Penalties and Sentences

  • State Jail Felony
    • If committed in a building other than a habitation, the penalties include a fine of up to $10,000 and a sentence of 6 months to 2 years in a state jail facility.


Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle in Texas is governed under Penal Code § 31.07 and a person is deemed as committing an offense if he/she intentionally or knowingly operated another’s car, boat, airplane, or other motor-propelled vehicle without the effective consent of the owner.

Penalties and Sentences

  • State Jail Felony
    • Carries a punishment of confinement in a Texas state jail facility for 180 days to 2 years, and a fine of up to $10,000.

Since consent is a common defense to this charge, the main issue for prosecutors becomes whether or not the owner agreed to let the defendant use their car or other motor-propelled vehicle during the instance in question. Even if the owner had permitted the defendant to drive the vehicle on a previous occasion, it is not enough to establish consent.


Our legal team at the Law Office of Mary Beth Harrell knows that a good defense to a property crime charge is critical, especially when the possible penalties are significant. Successful criminal defense is partially dependent upon how fast the accused retains a property damage lawyer who can begin strategizing for a successful outcome. If you’re facing property crime charges such as arson, criminal mischief or criminal trespass, give our office a call today at (254) 680-4655.

We represent clients throughout Bell County, Coryell County, Lampasas County, McLennan County & Williamson County in Texas. The Harrell Law Firm works with U.S. Magistrate Court, Fort Hood and U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas, Waco.