When we hear the term “property crime” we immediately think of theft, burglary, and the damage or destruction of one’s physical possessions.
However, were you aware that many property crimes actually pertain to things that are intangible?
If you are facing property crime charges and are confused about how or why, a knowledgeable Fort Worth criminal defense attorney can help you understand those Texas Statutes classified as offenses against property.
In this post, we look at three property crimes you may be surprised to find fall under this category of Texas Criminal law.
This one isn’t too much of a stretch, since the term “property” can refer to a physical location. Texas law defines criminal trespassing as a person entering or remaining on or in the property of another without the effective consent of the owner, and can apply to a range of locations, including residential, agricultural, or recreational land, a building, or a vehicle of any kind.
“Without effective consent” includes situations where the offender had notice that entry was forbidden or received notice to leave but failed to do so. Moreover, notice can be oral, written, or implied through various enclosures and postings.
Generally, trespassing crimes are considered either Class A or C misdemeanors, where class is determined by location and whether the person allegedly trespassing carried a deadly weapon during the commission of the offense.
Online Solicitation of a Minor
This is one computer crime that many people will probably be surprised to see listed as a property crime. However, based on the way the Texas Statutes are organized, it technically falls under the broader umbrella of property crimes.
Any person 17 years old or older commits this offense when they communicate in a sexually explicit manner with or distribute sexually explicit material to another individual who is either actually younger than 17 years of age or that the offender believes to be younger than 17.
The crime entails communication via e-mail, text, or other electronic message service or system, or other commercial online service, in order to knowingly solicit a minor to meet anyone else with the intent that the minor will engage in sexual contact or intercourse, or deviant sexual intercourse with either the offender or another person.
Important to note: this offense has been committed regardless of whether a meeting actually occurs.
Anyone found participating in these types of acts face felony charges – third degree when the minor is over 14 years of age, and second degree when under 14.
False Statement to Obtain Property or Credit
Texas property crime law says a person commits this kind of fraud by intentionally or knowingly making a materially false or misleading written statement to obtain property or credit, including a mortgage loan.
Specifically looking at mortgage loans, think about where a down payment typically comes from. Reportedly, nearly two-thirds of renters say saving that money is the biggest hurdle to buying a home.
Because of this, homebuyers often turn to family for help. However, there are regulations for the amount that may be gifted which are tied to the type of mortgage loan being secured.
While it may seem easy to fudge the details, inaccurately reporting where the money comes from can lead to felony fraud charges when attempting to secure a loan the size of a house.
Property values between $30,000 and $150,000 equal third-degree felony charges, mortgages valued between $150k and $300k would count as a felony of the second degree, and anything over $300k in credit or loan could net you a felony in the first degree.
As you can see, property crimes under Texas law go far beyond those criminal acts that typically come to mind. They run the gamut from computer and telecommunication crimes to insurance, Medicaid, and other forms of fraud.
Although the initial classification can be confusing, it is important that you understand exactly how Texas law views the crimes you have been accused of, and what penalties you stand to face in conjunction with them.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.