If you conspire with someone to trespass another person’s property or commit larceny, you might face severe charges in Virginia. Serious charges can end up ruining your life and reputation if you are not careful enough. Therefore, you need to seek a professional criminal defense attorney to help you with your charges. Virginia Criminal Attorney offers the best legal services when it comes to such charges.
Legal Definition of Conspiracy to Trespass in Virginia
Under Virginia Code 18.2-23, subsection (a) explains conspiracy to trespass as the action of conspiring, confederating, or combining with another person to go forth in the land, building, or premises or part of them with the knowledge that it is forbidden to do so.
The code further explains that the entry of the premises is forbidden either by word or written by the owner, lessee, custodian, or any other person who is legally in charge of the property. The entry can also be forbidden by the erection of a visible signpost on the land or building.
Under subsection (b), the code explains larceny as the act of conspiring, confederating, or combining with another person within the Commonwealth to counsel, larceny, or assist another person in larceny. The value of the goods or merchandise in question should be worth more than $200 for one to be found guilty of committing the crime.
Concealing the goods or merchandise, while still on the premises works as the prima facie evidence of your intention to defraud the owner of the property. Violation of this subsection is a felony and is charged separately from the other.
Under subsection (c), anyone charged should be tried within the county or city where the conspiracy was planned and implemented.
The Elements of Crime in Virginia Code 18.2-23
For a prosecutor to successfully prosecute a defendant with any crime, he or she must prove various aspects related to the crime. These aspects are referred to as the elements of the crime. The following are the elements of crime in Virginia conspiracy or larceny cases.
Two or More People Agreed to Commit a Crime
Based on the description provided above, two or more people must conspire, confederate, or combine with another person(s) to trespass. This means, if the prosecutor cannot prove that there was an agreement between you and another person(s), the case might be deemed invalid. The agreement can either be made verbally, written, or through several actions that portray a consensual decision between two parties.
Under Virginia Code 18.2-23, the conspiracy or agreement between two parties is geared towards intrusion. Trespass is an unlawful entry into someone else's property without permission of the lawful authority. In this case, the code defines a legal authority as the property owner, lessee, or a person placed in charge of the property.
Besides that, the prosecutor must show that the defendant was aware of the prohibition to enter the property or residence based on the erection of a signpost or through common knowledge.
Both Parties had the Intent to Commit the Objective of Conspiracy
Both parties involved in the trespass must be aware of the criminal action about to engage in to make this kind of charge valid. However, there is no requirement of acknowledging the details of the crime in detail to make the allegations credible enough. Having mere knowledge about the intent is enough as long as the perpetrators are aware that the action about to undertake is criminal and proceeds to commit it nonetheless.
When it comes to larceny, the prosecutor has to prove four aspects. These aspects are as follows:
- You unlawfully took or carried away
- Someone else property
- Without the consent of the owner
- You had the intention of permanently depriving the owner his or her property or merchandise
The unlawful taking of someone else’s property forms the first stage of this crime. However, under Virginia Code 18.2-23, the idea of taking someone else property must result from a conspiracy between two people. Please note, this is different from the lawful taking of a property, such as repossession of a vehicle.
To some extent, the action is satisfied when the perpetrator takes the property and takes control of it and removes the enjoyment of its ownership from its owner. This applies to properties that are immovable such as land and buildings.
Someone Else’s Property
For larceny to apply, the property in question must belong to someone else. Therefore, if the person trying to take it owns it, the action does not count as theft. For instance, theft cannot work if a person tries to bring back a lawnmower from a neighbor who failed to return it.
Please note, larceny also applies to property that is co-owned. When one of the co-owner tries to take the right of the property from other owners, this might count as theft. For instance, if three friends buy a property, and two of them try to conspire against one of them to deprive him or her ownership of it, this becomes larceny.
Without Consent from the Owner
If one intends to take a property from its owner with the consent from its owner, there is no theft in place. However, it could be a criminal action if someone else transfers the property to another person through deceit or fraud.
The Intent of the Taker
The final element of larceny involves taking something permanently from its owner. In other words, if you intend to take something from another person and eventually take it back, this does not count as larceny. It is also not larceny if one does not reasonably believe that you are taking the property.
Please note, Virginia laws do not consider the overt act as an aspect that a prosecutor should use to prove your conspiracy or larceny charges. An overt act is something that makes a particular intention to be more than evident by going to the extent of doing something to support your criminal offense. For instance, if someone is planning to forcibly trespass into a building, and goes forth to buy necessary tools that can help in such a crime, this becomes an overt act.
In Virginia, the prosecutor only has to prove that there was an agreement between the parties involved in the criminal offense to make the charges valid.
Penalties for Conspiracy to Trespass in Virginia
According to the definition of the laws, conspiracy to trespass is a class 3 misdemeanor. Therefore, it attracts a maximum fine of $500.
On the other hand, according to the definition, larceny involves any property that is worth more than $200. Under Virginia laws, this is a grand larceny crime and is punishable as a felony. Such offense involves imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum of a year and a maximum of twenty years.
Under Virginia laws, judges have the discretion to punish this kind of theft as a misdemeanor. This depends on whether the offender has a prior criminal record and whether the value of the property in question has a value that is slightly more than the $200. If the judge punishes the offender with a misdemeanor, the offender might get imprisoned for not more than a year, pay a maximum fine of $2,500, or both.
Effects of Prior Conviction in a Subsequent Larceny Charge
If an offender commits grand larceny and has a prior misdemeanor or felony larceny offense, the offender is supposed to be confined in jail for a minimum of thirty days but not more than a year. This applies whether or not the prior larceny occurred within Virginia.
A third or subsequent larceny offense falls under the Class 6 Felony. This kind of crime is punishable by a maximum of five years of imprisonment, a maximum fine of $2,500, or both.
Penalty Enhancement in Larceny
Particular actions can lead to an enhanced penalty in grand larceny. For instance, if you conspire to steal something with the intent of reselling it, this carries an additional penalty of two years of imprisonment. The fact that you took more than one merchandise at the same time is enough to prove that you had the intention of reselling them.
Another penalty enhancement is receiving stolen goods. Since conspiracy involves an agreement between two people, one of the parties might agree to conceal the stolen property or aid in its concealment, in such a case, one is deemed of larceny and might be convicted similar to the principal offender.
Legal Defenses for Conspiracy to Trespass In Virginia
Once you hire an attorney, you expect him or her to employ relevant legal defenses in your case. A reliable attorney should use proper legal arguments that match the kind of case at hand. Here are a couple of legal defenses that your attorney should consider.
Claim innocence is the most straightforward legal defense that you can apply in your case. This legal defense implies your innocence in the alleged crime, which in this case, involves a conspiracy of trespass or larceny. You can claim that someone tried to frame you, or the police officer could have mistaken you with the actual perpetrator.
Mistaken of Facts
Mistaken facts are common in most offenses. People are mistaken for the actual perpetrators due to resemblance or presence within the scene of the crime. It is easy to disapprove of your allegation by providing evidence of your whereabouts during the trespass or larceny. You can use evidence such as bank receipts, GPS locations, witness statements, and video footage to prove your non-involvement in the stated crime.
To be prosecuted under Virginia Code 18.2-23, you must trespass on the plaintiff’s property. However, if you had permission from the owner, then your actions are legal. This means that you did not continue into doing something unlawful into the plaintiff’s property to make this legal defense effective.
Sometimes you might be forced to trespass into someone else’s property to reclaim something that you own. The initial deprivation of your property should be through a consensual agreement with the plaintiff. It can also work if it happened through “an act of God,” such as wind.
If you commit a trespass to protect the public during an emergency, this does not count as an unlawful action. However, for the legal defense to be entirely suitable, there must be a complete necessity for trespassing and the fact that your trespass was made genuinely with the good faith of protecting the public.
Please note, the credibility of this legal defense becomes questionable if the trespass was unreasonable based on the circumstances surrounding the intrusion.
Similar to public necessity, private necessity provides the leeway to trespass a property to protect yourself from death or acquiring severe bodily injuries. This happens during an emergency, although such a situation appears as a conspiracy to trespass another person’s property.
Please note, although the court might hold you innocent for trespassing, you can still get punished for any damages incurred through your trespass.
Entrapment works well when you are charged with conspiracy to theft. In this case, someone must have induced you into committing a crime that generally you could have declined to do. Often, police officers usually convince the defendant to steal something that they would have taken.
For this legal defense to work, you must not have any inclination to a similar crime, and the decision to commit it must be solely based on enticement or entrapment.
In another type of defense, you can claim that your involvement in the theft was a result of someone else forcing you to do so. Typically, such a situation might appear to be a conspiracy between you and the person pushing you until you reveal the force behind your action. In most cases, duress works out when a person threatens your life or the life of your relative.
Lack of Notice to Depart
If a property owner gives you the freedom to access his or her property but terminates the consent without notice, you can use such a situation as a legal defense to trespass. Ideally, property owners, such as landlords, should give their tenants a notice that terminates their entry to their building after their relationship has broken down. However, if the unauthorized tenant accesses the building, later on, it might appear as a trespass. This can incriminate someone with intrusion unless one uses relevant evidence to disapprove of the circumstances surrounding the action.
Please note, for this legal defense to be effective, there must be no intent to do something unlawful in the building and accomplishment of the same action as well.
Crimes Related to Conspiracy to Trespass or Larceny in Virginia
Several crimes are related to conspiracy to trespass or larceny. These crimes are usually part of the Virginia code that covers anything to do with conspiracy. They are also charged along with the crime or carry similar charges. Here are the crimes related to conspiracy to trespass or larceny in Virginia.
Conspiracy to Commit a Felony
Under Virginia Code 18.2-22, conspiracy to commit a felony is the act of conspiring with another person, residing in Virginia or outside the state. The individuals involved in the conspiracy face a Class 3 felony conspiracy charge if the crime involved is punishable by death.
If the crime that the parties were conspiring to commit is a non-capital offense, the charges that follow is a Class 5 felony. If the crimes that the parties were conspiring to commit is punishable by imprisonment in state prison for five years, the perpetrators are eligible for maximum imprisonment for a year. The court has the discretion to punish the offender with a maximum of twelve months of imprisonment, a maximum fine of $500, or both.
In a Class 3 felony, the alleged perpetrator faces possible imprisonment of a minimum of 5 years and a fine that can reach up to $100,000.
For a Class 5 felony, the potential penalty includes imprisonment for not more than ten years. The judge can also impose imprisonment for a maximum of 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500.
Committing, Conspiring and Abetting Terrorism
Under Virginia Code 18.2-46.5, it is illegal to conspire to commit terrorism and is punishable under the sentencing guidelines that follow. This also applies to someone who successfully managed to commit the act of terrorism or aid in the action. Such an offense is classified as a Class 2 or Class 3 felony, which is punishable by life imprisonment.
If charged with a Class 2 felony, the potential penalty includes imprisonment for a minimum of 20 years and a maximum fine of $100,000.
If charged with a Class 3 felony, the potential penalty includes imprisonment for a minimum of 5 years and a maximum fine of $100,000.
Conspiracy to Commit Crimes Involving Fraud
Conspiracy to commit fraud is usually accompanied by different forms of fraud. Some types of fraud might involve more than two people. This offense is not charged separately like other forms of conspiracy but works as a sentence enhancement in the conviction.
Credit Card Fraud
Under Virginia Code 18.2-195, it is illegal to conspire with another person to commit a credit card fraud. Anyone found guilty of such an offense is guilty of a Class 6 felony.
A credit card fraud is defined as a fraudulent usage of someone else's credit card or credit card number to obtain goods, services, money, or anything else of value. For the crime to be valid, the cardholder must not have authorized the usage of his/her card.
For the Class 6 felony charge that you get, the potential penalty includes a maximum of five years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of $2,500.
The definition of pyramid schemes in Virginia is found under Penal Code 18.2-239. Under this code, a pyramid scheme is a general term that involves a scheme consisting of several individuals geared towards generating money from the introduction of new people other than the goods or services that it deals with. Violation of this requirement is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Also, any contract that exists under this kind of scheme is deemed void and unenforceable to the public.
Other than the Class 1 misdemeanor sentence, violation of this law is constituted under Virginia Code 59.1-200 and is subject to the provisions of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.
For the Class 1 misdemeanor charges, this makes you eligible for a penalty that includes a maximum of twelve months of imprisonment and a maximum fine of $2,500.
Fraudulent Use of Birth Certificates
Under Virginia Code 18.2-2041, it is unlawful to possess or obtain a fake birth certificate for the intention of establishing a new identity. Anyone found guilty of such an offense faces a Class 1 misdemeanor. Those who are in the production end or involved in the manufacture, transfer, or sale of the document face a Class 6 felony.
If charged with Class 1 misdemeanor, the potential penalty includes confinement in prison for a maximum of twelve months and a maximum fine of $2,500.
If charged with a Class 6 felony, the potential penalties include imprisonment for a maximum of five years and a maximum fine of $2,500.
Possession of Burglary Tools
Possession of burglary tools to commit larceny is a separate offense that attracts severe charges compared to theft. Such a crime is a Class 5 felony, which is punishable by ten years of imprisonment. For one to be guilty of this offense, one must have burglary tools that outfit larceny, theft, or robbery.
Under Virginia Code 18.2-94, possession of such tools is primary evidence of your intention to commit an underlying larceny crime.
Find a Fairfax Criminal Lawyer Near Me
Dealing with a conspiracy to trespass or larceny charges is quite complicated in Virginia. It requires someone with substantial knowledge about Virginia laws to achieve the expected results. The best thing to consider would be hiring a professional criminal attorney to ensure that every aspect of your case is taken into consideration. Unfortunately, not all attorneys who claim to be professionals can manage to deliver as expected. We at Virginia Criminal Attorney have experienced attorneys who are well-versed with Virginia law. For anyone living within Fairfax, and Northern Virginia, contact us at 703-718-5533 and let us help you with your case.