Criminal Defense Law Firm

San Francisco Property Crimes

Property crime law includes a range of criminal offenses covered by the California penal code. Because the crimes are varied, it means that the types of punishments, as well as the defense of the crimes, will differ.

Types of Property Crimes

Below, you'll learn more about some property crime offenses.


If someone enters a building or another location intending to commit a crime, such as theft, they are committing burglary. Penal Codes 459, 460, and 461 PC cover this crime.

Even if they don't commit any crime on the property, they can still be charged with burglary if that is the intent. For example, someone caught with tools for breaking into a property would likely face charges.


Trespassing involves entering another person's property without their permission and applies to a residence or a commercial property, known as commercial trespass. This crime differs from burglary, as there is no intent by the defendant to commit a crime when they are on the property. Penal Code 602 PC and codes 556 and 558 cover the trespass crime.


Vandalism involves destroying, damaging, or defacing someone's property without permission. Graffiti is one example, but it can include causing damage to someone's home, keying their vehicle, or knocking down street or business signs. Graffiti falls under malicious mischief in Penal Code 594(a) PC .


Starting a fire intentionally to burn a building or forest is considered arson. In most cases, arson earns a felony charge. A serious offense, arson can carry a substantial fine and jail time. The penalties will increase if someone is injured or killed due to the arson. Arson may sometimes cover up other crimes leading to additional charges under Penal Code 451 PC .


Theft refers to the act of taking another person’s property without their consent with the intent of depriving them of that property. Different types of theft exist and will typically fall into two categories: petty theft and grand theft . Petty theft refers to cases where the amount taken was $950 or less. Theft with a higher dollar value is considered grand theft.

Types of Penalties for Property Crimes

As you can see, the types and severity of the crimes differ greatly. Someone who trespasses on a property will not receive the same punishment as someone who commits arson and injures people while causing substantial property damage.

Common penalties include probation, fines, restitution, community service, parole, or imprisonment. Again, the nature of their case will determine the sentencing requirement.

Defenses for Property Crimes

Certain defenses could be viable in property damage crimes depending on the case.

One of the common defenses that can work in some instances is that the defendant made a mistake. They believed specific facts when they committed the act and didn't intend to break the law. They can't be held liable without intent, which is required to prove most property crimes. An example might be someone taking a walk who mistakenly trespasses on another person's property. They may not have known it was private property at the time.

If someone else coerced the defendant, the judge may dismiss the charges. For example, if someone threatened or blackmailed the defendant into vandalizing a neighbor's business, they may not be held criminally liable. However, they must show evidence of coercion.

Get an Attorney Soon

Property crimes carry penalties; you want to avoid facing the court alone. It is best to contact a defense lawyer who can review your case as soon as possible. Contact Gasner Law by calling 415-782-6000 today, so we can start working on your case.