If you or your loved one have been charged under the wide array of laws that are considered property offences, you may have questions. How serious are these charges? What are the potential penalties? What are your options? The answer will vary widely depending on the variety and severity of the charges. An experienced team of legal professionals can help you get all of the information you need.
What are property offences?
In short, property offences cover any crime that involves the personal property of another person. Examples range from typically minor offences, like petty shoplifting, to major crimes like robbery. A Crimes like fraud, passing valueless cheques, computer hacking and extortion also fall under this umbrella.
Some additional property offences include:
- Stealing: To be charged with theft, a person must have taken something that was not their property and used it in a way that makes it impossible for the item in question to be returned. The most common example would be selling the item.
- Car theft (or unlawful use of a vehicle): A person can also be charged for stealing a vehicle or simply using one that they did not steal themselves. For this charge to stick, the police must be able to prove that the driver had knowledge that the car was stolen.
- Arson: The penalties for burning someone else's property can be very severe and include life imprisonment.
- Extortion: This charge involved making a demand without reasonable cause on someone with the intention to cause them or their property harm. Threats of violence and damage to property are serious and carry heft penalties.
- Breaking and entering: This charge is levied against anyone who breaks into a house or other private location without permission. Determining whether someone has broken into a home, rather than trespassed, can sometimes be challenging.
Sentencing and penalties
While the penalties for involvement in a property crime can vary, most of these offences fall under the state or national criminal code, in Queensland and across Australia. The criminal code covers the most severe offences and means that a defendant runs the risk of both imprisonment and hefty fines.
The exact punishment for a property offence, however, will vary depending on the value of the impacted property and the level of complicity of the defendant. For example, the maximum penalty for stealing in Queensland is five years in prison. However, a full five-year sentence is only occasionally given by a judge. The legal system also differentiates between the crime of theft and the act of receiving stolen property. While both are crimes, the penalties for each may vary. Additionally, to be charged with receiving stolen property, the police must be able to prove that the defendant was aware that the goods in question were stolen. This can often be far harder than linking someone to the initial theft.
One property offence that is not punished with imprisonment is shoplifting, which carries only a relatively small fine as its penalty. In Queensland, shoplifting differentiates from theft based on the value of the property stolen, which must be lower than $150. These charges are typically dealt with in magistrate court.
For most other property offences, your options for avoiding imprisonment will depend on the severity of the charges, and whether you have evidence that can either prove your innocence or severely weaken the prosecution's case. If you don't necessarily have a case for innocence, attempting to pursue a plea deal may be your best choice. In a plea deal, the defendant pleads guilty to the crime in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Whether you decide to pursue a plea deal or fight the case in court, you'll want the assistance of a well-regarded criminal solicitor. Your lawyer can work to negotiate the best realistic plea deal with the prosecution, possibly saving years in prison or thousands of dollars in fines. An expert in the law, a good solicitor can also protect you or your loved one from unlawful or invasive questioning in or before a case goes to court. Representation can be the difference between your offence being a minor or life-defining moment.
If you've been charged with a crime, consider Russo Lawyers for representation. Contact us today to learn more.