Lansing Property Crimes Lawyer

Michigan treats property crimes like arson or the damage or destruction of property very seriously — whether it’s someone’s home, land, place of business, vehicle, or personal property. When the cost of the damage or destruction exceeds $1,000, you may be charged with a felony and face stiff penalties and consequences that will affect you for the remainder of your life, requiring legal guidance and help from an experienced Lansing property crimes lawyer.

The possible consequences of a conviction for arson or vandalism may include:

  • Incarceration in a jail or prison, possibly for years
  • Thousands of dollars in fines
  • A permanent criminal record that may cause you to be denied employment or rental housing
  • Suspension or denial of a license to practice a profession such as medicine, nursing, pharmacy, law, or teaching
  • Denial of your application for an immigration visa or green card and possible deportation to your home country if you are not a U.S. citizen
  • Inability to get insurance for your home or business

However, in order to convict you of arson or vandalism a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had the intent to damage or destroy the property. In many cases, the prosecutor must prove not only intent, but also that you were malicious. Circumstances may exist in your case that an experienced Lansing criminal defense lawyer can use to defend you in court and try to get your case dismissed or your charge or penalties reduced.

Michigan Property Crimes and Penalties

The two main types of property-related crimes in Michigan are arson and malicious and willful destruction of property, also known to some as vandalism. Each of these offenses includes a range of actions that may give rise to charges, and a corresponding range of penalties.

The penalties reflected on this page are written into Michigan statutes. However, a recent decision by the Michigan Supreme Court gives judges more discretion in setting sentences. A skilled East Lansing criminal defense lawyer can explain the possible outcomes you might be able to expect in your case.

Arson Defense in Lansing

The basic offense of arson involves willfully and maliciously burning personal property, whether someone else’s or your own. There are several different arson offenses defined in Michigan statutes, and penalties vary depending on factors such as the value of the property, the nature of the property, and whether you have prior arson convictions on your record. Property can include buildings, land, vehicles, or other types of personal property.

Michigan’s arson laws and penalties break down as follows:

  • Arson Less Than $200 — Under Section 750.78 of the Michigan Penal Code, it’s a misdemeanor crime to set fire to personal property valued at less than $200. The possible penalties for a first conviction include up to 93 days in jail, and a fine of up to $500 or three times the value of the burned property, whichever is greater. The penalties for a second conviction include a possible jail sentence of up to 1 year, and a fine of up to $2,000 or three times the value of the burned property, whichever is greater.
  • Arson $200 to $1,000 — Under Section 750.78 of the Michigan Penal Code, it’s a misdemeanor crime to set fire to personal property valued at $200 to $1,000. The possible punishment includes up to 1 year in jail, and a fine of up to $2,000 or three times the value of the burned property, whichever is greater.
  • Fifth Degree — Under Section 750.77 of the Michigan Penal Code, your second or subsequent conviction for using fire to intentionally damage or destroy personal property valued at $1,000 or less is fifth degree arson. The possible punishment includes up to 1 year in jail, and a fine of up to $2,000 or three times the value of the damaged or destroyed property, whichever is greater.
  • Fourth Degree — Under Section 750.75 of the Michigan Penal Code, you may be charged with the felony offense of fourth degree arson for maliciously or willfully burning property valued at $1,000 to $20,000, or when you have one or more prior convictions for arson involving personal property valued at $200 or more. The possible penalties for fourth degree arson include up to 5 years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000 or three times the value of the burned property, whichever is greater.
  • Third Degree — Under Section 750.74 of the Michigan Penal Code, you may be charged with the felony offense of third degree arson when you willfully or maliciously burn any building or structure, any personal property valued at $20,000 or more, or have one or more prior convictions for burning personal property valued at $1,000 or more. The possible penalties for third degree arson include up to 10 years in prison, and a fine of up to $20,000 or three times the value of the burned property, whichever is greater.
  • Second Degree — Under Section 750.73 of the Michigan Penal Code, you may be charged with the felony offense of second degree arson when you maliciously and willfully burn any dwelling. The possible punishment includes up to 20 years in prison, and a fine of up to $20,000 or three times the value of the burned property, whichever is greater.
  • First Degree — Under Section 750.72, you may be charged with the felony offense of first degree arson when you maliciously and willfully burn or use an explosive device in a multi unit building such as an apartment building or office building, any building or structure if it results in injury to a person, or a mine. The possible penalties for a first degree arson conviction include up to life in prison, and a fine of up to $20,000 or three times the value of the burned property, whichever is greater.
  • Arson of Insured Property — When you willfully or maliciously set fire or use an explosive device with the intent of committing insurance fraud in any insured dwelling, building, structure, or land, or to damage or destroy any personal property, you may be charged with a felony. The possible punishments include up to life in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 or three times the property value, whichever is greater, when you burn an insured dwelling; up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 or three times the property value, whichever is greater, when you burn a building, structure, or land; up to 10 years in prison and a and a fine of up to $20,000 or three times the property value, whichever is greater, when you burn insured real property.

Malicious Destruction of Property


In Michigan, acts of vandalism are charged as malicious and willful destruction of property. There are numerous statutes that cover different forms of this offense, and an experienced Michigan property crimes attorney can explain the statute under which you are being charged, and the possible outcomes and penalties in your case.

The general offense of malicious and willful destruction of property is covered under Section 750.377a of the Michigan Penal Code. Vandalism can be a misdemeanor or a felony. The seriousness of the charge and the possible penalties primarily depend on the dollar value of the damage or destruction. The penalties under Section 750.377a break down as follows:

  • Less than $200 — On a first conviction, this is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 93 days in jail, and a fine of $500 or three times the value of the destruction or damage, whichever is greater. A second or subsequent conviction can result in penalties of up to 1 year in jail, and a fine of up to $2,000 or three times the value of the damage or destruction, whichever is greater.
  • $200 to $1,000 — A first conviction is a misdemeanor offense with possible penalties of up to 1 year in jail, and a fine of up to $2,000 or three times the value of the damage or destruction, whichever is greater. A second or subsequent conviction is a felony, with possible punishments including up to 5 years in jail, and a fine of up to $10,000 or three times the value of the destruction or damage, whichever is greater.
  • $1,000 to $20,000 — A first or second conviction is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail, and a fine of up to $10,000 or three times the value of the damage or destruction, whichever is greater. A third conviction may be punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and a fine of up to $15,000 or three times the value of the destruction or damage, whichever is greater.
  • $20,000 or more — This is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000 or three times the value of the destruction or damage, whichever is greater.

When a prosecutor is determining the dollar value of damage or destruction for purposes of charging you with malicious and willful destruction of property, the statute allows for multiple separate incidents over a 12-month period to be aggregated. That means you could face a felony charge for a few small acts of vandalism if the combined damage or destruction is valued at $1,000 or more.

Skilled Defense for Your Arson or Destruction of Property Charge

There is more than one side to every story, and in the case of your arson or malicious destruction of property charge, it’s critical to your defense that someone hear and believe your side and acts as a tough advocate for you through the course of an investigation or in court.

Because of the seriousness of arson or vandalism charges, particularly if someone was injured or the value of the damage was great, it’s important that you have representation from a good property crimes lawyer who knows the law and knows the system in Lansing.

Talk to an East Lansing Property Crimes Attorney Today

Our Lansing property crime lawyers have a successful track record of representing people accused of crimes in the East Lansing area, including Ingham County and Clinton County. We take seriously the idea that every person accused of a crime has rights under the Constitution and under state laws. We can start representing you as soon as you know that you’re being investigated. We can be there when police question you, or when they want to conduct searches of your property. We’ll be your voice through the court process and trial. We will work tirelessly to defend your rights and to present a strong defense in your arson or vandalism case. Call us today at (517) 324-4303 for a free and 100% confidential consultation.