Injury to Real Property

Injury to Property

Occasionally a person going through a domestic or civil legal matter will find themselves charged with a related criminal offense. An example of something done in the domestic context also having criminal consequences can involve injury to different types of property. Injury to property can be broken into two broad categories: injury to real property and injury to personal property. You can find the article about Injury to Personal Property here.

Injury to Real Property

Injury to real property is defined as the willful or wanton damage, injury, or destruction of the real property of another. Real property can be a wide variety of things: actual land, things found above and below the ground, buildings, fences, water, or anything attached to any of the aforementioned things.

Wherever arguments happen, sometimes a participant may decide to direct their anger at the property of the other instead of the actual person. Put in the domestic situation, if a husband and wife get into a verbal argument, one party may storm out so they do not hit or physically harm the other. What if, on the way out, they pick up a rock and throw it through the window of the family home? Would this situation fit the charge of injury to real property? The answer in this context hinges on whether the home is the property “of another,” as the statute requires, or if they own it jointly. If they own the house together, then it is possible no crime has been committed.

What if the person instead meant to throw the rock over the house, but while throwing the rock it happens to break a window? Was the act done “willfully or wantonly?” What if it is not a house, but a mobile home? If it is a trailer, is it “attached”? Do either of these structures satisfy the definition of real property? What constitutes damage, injury or destruction? As is evident, there are a lot of different questions that can arise in what seemingly is a very basic act.

Other situations and fact patterns, outside of throwing a rock, can also form the basis for this charge. If you purposely go into another person’s home or business, for example, clog the faucet and turn the sink on, any damage that arises due to flooding from the sink could form the basis for injury to real property.

Many ask why simply causing property damage is punished as harshly as it is; injury to real property is a class 1 misdemeanor and may be punishable by up to 120 days in jail. One possible answer deals with the type of property involved; for most in our society, their real property is their most cherished, personal, and valuable thing a person can own, and therefore the law takes any injury to it extremely seriously.

North Carolina also has a criminal charge that deals specifically with injury to trees, crops, flowers, etc. While it has similarities to injury to real property, it also has many more specific examples listed, and it too is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 120 days in jail. In many counties (including Mecklenburg), it is also a class 3 misdemeanor to dig up and remove a variety of wild plants, even if nobody owns the land it is found on.

Every fact in a situation raises a variety of different legal issues, and the more complicated the matter the more hiring a well-trained and experienced attorney can aid in its positive resolution. J. Bradley Smith, Matthew R. Arnold, and their team of experienced attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are capable of providing you with zealous representation for every set of circumstances, whether it arise in the criminal or civil context. Call us today at 704-370-2828 and schedule an appointment.