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Property Crimes

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Most property crimes, such as burglary and malicious destruction of property, in the State of Maryland carry a possible period of incarceration and/or substantial fines if you are convicted.  Additionally, if you are found guilty of a property crime, you will have a criminal conviction on your record that will be visible to employers, housing authorities, and other entities. No matter how minor or insignificant the event that led to the charge may have seemed, the charge should not be taken lightly.  An experienced Baltimore County criminal defense attorney can help you by protecting your rights and asserting any applicable defenses to avoid having a conviction on your record. 

First-Degree Burglary

First-degree burglary is is the breaking and entering into someone else’s dwelling with the intent to commit theft or a crime of violence.

In order to be convicted of first-degree burglary, the State must prove each of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

      1. That there was a breaking and entering;
      2. That the Defendant was the one who broke and entered;
      3. That the Defendant was the one who broke into someone else’s dwelling; and,
      4. That the Defendant’s intent at the time of the breaking and entering was to commit a theft or a crime of violence.

Breaking involves the creation of an opening, such as breaking or opening a window or pushing open a door.  Breaking includes loosening, removing or displacing any covering or fastening of the dwelling house, such as lifting a latch or turning a key or knob, or pushing open a door kept closed by its own weight.  Breaking also includes gaining entry by intimidation, force, fraud or trickery. 

The Defendant entered the dwelling if any part of the Defendant’s body or his or her instrument crossed the threshold of the dwelling even for a brief moment. 

First-degree burglary is a felony that is punishable by up to 20 or 25 years of incarceration.

First-Degree Burglary

Second-Degree Burglary

Second-degree burglary is the breaking and entering into someone else’s storehouse with the intent to commit a theft, a crime of violence, and/or arson in the second degree or breaking and entering into someone else’s storehouse with the intent to steal a firearm.

In order to be convicted of second-degree burglary, the State must prove each of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

      1. That there was a breaking and an entering;
      2. That the Defendant was the one who broke and entered;
      3. That the breaking and entering was into someone else’s storehouse; and,
      4. That the Defendant’s intent at the time of the breaking and entering was to commit a theft, a crime of violence, and/or arson in the second degree or with the intent to steal a firearm.

“Storehouse” means any building, other construction, or watercraft, and includes any barn, stable, garage, pier, wharf, boathouse, and any facility attached to a pier or wharf; any shop, storeroom, warehouse, factory, mill, house of worship, meetinghouse, courthouse, workhouse, school, or public building; and, any trailer, aircraft, boat, ship or railroad car.

Second-degree burglary is a felony that is punishable by up to 15 or 20 years of incarceration.

Third-Degree Burglary

Third-degree burglary is the breaking and entering into someone else’s dwelling with the intent to commit any crime.

In order to be convicted of third-degree burglary, the State must prove each of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

      1. That there was a breaking and entering;
      2. That the Defendant was the person who broke and entered;
      3. That the Defendant broke and entered into someone else’s dwelling; and,
      4. That the Defendant’s at the time of the breaking and entering was to commit a crime.

Third-degree burglary is punishable by up to 10 years of incarceration.

First-Degree Arson

A person commits first-degree arson when he or she willfully and maliciously sets fire to or burns a dwelling, such as a house, or an occupied structure, such as a hotel.

In order to be convicted of first-degree arson, the State must prove each of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

      1. That a fire occurred to at least part of a dwelling or occupied structure;
      2. That the Defendant set the fire; and,
      3. That the Defendant set the fire willfully and maliciously.

See Butina v. State, 4 Md. App. 312, 242 A.2d 819 (1968).

“Fire” means the actual burning or charring of a dwelling or occupied
structure.  There is no requirement that the dwelling or occupied structure be completely destroyed.  The slightest burning makes the offense complete if the State proves that the burning was willful and malicious.

A “dwelling” means a structure in which any part has been adapted for overnight accommodation of a person, regardless of whether a person is actually present at the time.  It does not matter if the dwelling belonged to the Defendant or someone else.

An “occupied structure” means a building or other construction, a vehicle, watercraft, or something other than a dwelling, in which another person, who is not a participant in the arson, is present at the time of the fire.  It does not matter if the structure belonged to the Defendant or someone else.

First-degree arson is a felony offense.  If convicted, the maximum penalty is imprisonment of up to 30 years and/or a fine of up to $50,000.

Second-Degree Arson

A person commits second-degree arson when he or she willfully and maliciously sets fire to or burns a structure, such as a shed or barn, belonging to that person or another person.

In order to be convicted of second-degree arson, the State must prove each of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

      1. That a fire occurred to at least part of a  structure;
      2. That the Defendant set the fire; and,
      3. That the Defendant set the fire willfully and maliciously.

Second-degree arson is a felony offense.  If convicted, the maximum penalty is up to twenty years incarceration and/or a fine of up to $30,000.

Second-Degree Arson

Trespassing - Private Property

Trespassing on private property is committed when a person is present upon the property of another after being notified by the owner or a person acting under his or her authority to keep off the premises and when there is no good faith claim of right to remain.

In order to be convicted of trespassing on private property, the State must prove each of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

      1. That the Defendant wantonly trespassed on the private property of another; and,
      2. That the Defendant remained upon, entered upon, or crossed over the property after sufficient notice to leave the property was given to the Defendant by a person who owns the property or a person acting under his or her authority.

If the Defendant merely knew that he or she was not welcome on the premises, that is not enough to support a conviction. In order to convict the defendant, the court or jury must find that he or she was given sufficient notice to leave.

The word “wanton” means characterized by extreme recklessness and utter disregard for the rights of others.  See Griffin v. State, 225 Md. 422, 171 A.2d 717 (1961).

Trespassing on private property is a misdemeanor offense.  For a first offense, the maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $500 and/or imprisonment not exceeding 90 days.  For a second offense, occurring within two years after the first violation, the maximum punishment is imprisonment not exceeding six months and/or a fine not exceeding $1,000.  Each subsequent violation occurring within two years after the preceding violation is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding one year and/or a fine not exceeding $2,500.

Trespassing - Posted Property

In order to be convicted of trespassing on posted property, the State must prove each of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

      1. That the Defendant entered the property of another without permission; and,
      2. That a sign or marking was posted on the property in an obvious manner warning against unauthorized entry.

Signs do not need to specifically state “No Trespassing” or “Keep Out.”  It is sufficient if a sign is posted in an obvious manner and makes it known that unauthorized persons are prohibited from entry.  In other words, the posting must have been made in a conspicuous manner so as to give a reasonable person notice that trespassing is prohibited.  See Monroe v. State, 51 Md. App. 661, 445 A.2d 1047 (1982).

Trespassing on posted property is a misdemeanor offense.  For a first offense, the maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $500 and/or imprisonment not exceeding 90 days.  For a second offense, occurring within two years after the first violation, is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding six months and/or a fine not exceeding $1,000.  Each subsequent violation occurring within two years after the preceding violation is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding one year and/or a fine not exceeding $2,500.

Trespassing on Posted Property

Malicious Destruction of Property

Malicious destruction of property can be charged in two different ways, depending on the value of the property allegedly destroyed or damaged.  The value of the property allegedly destroyed or damaged determines the maximum possible sentence that may be imposed by law.

Malicious Destruction of Property Valued at More than $1,000

In order to be convicted of malicious destruction of property valued at more than $1,000, the State must prove each of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

1.  That the Defendant destroyed, damaged, or defaced someone else’s property;

2.  That the Defendant acted willfully and maliciously to destroy, damage, or deface someone else’s property;

3.  That the amount of damage caused by the Defendant was greater than $1,000; and,

3.  That the Defendant’s actions were not legally justified or excusable.  

Malicious Destruction of Property Valued at Less than $1,000

In order to be convicted of malicious destruction of property valued at less than $1,000, the State must prove each of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

1.  That the Defendant destroyed, damaged, or defaced someone else’s property;

2.  That the Defendant acted willfully and maliciously to destroy, damage, or deface someone else’s property; and,

3.  That the Defendant’s actions were not legally justified or excusable.