Don't Tamper With Survey Markers

I’ve handled my share of boundary disputes during my career. They can often be “knock down, drag out” affairs. A judge once told me that the hardest-fought cases were child custody cases and boundary disputes. The fervor generated by such disputes can lead to tampering with boundary markers.

Destruction of a survey monument is a crime under Pennsylvania law. It is found in the same chapter as arson, causing or risking a catastrophe, tampering with fire hydrants, and ecoterrorism. The statute, 18 Pa.C.S. § 3312, provides, “A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if he willfully or maliciously cuts, injures, damages, destroys, defaces or removes any survey monument or marker in order to call into question a boundary line.” Perhaps more importantly, anyone who violates this statute will be liable for the cost of the re-establishment of the permanent survey monument or marker by a professional land surveyor, as well as all reasonable attorney fees. There is a defense, however, if the survey monument or marker was improperly placed by a professional land surveyor. (You’d have to have your own surveyor to prove that.)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court decided a case involving this statute last month, in a case of first impression. In Commonwealth v. Harvey, Flecia Harvey was convicted of destroying a survey monument. Ms. Harvey had ripped up wooden stakes and flags that had been placed to mark the dividing line of a driveway she shared with a neighbor. Police charged Harvey with the destruction of a survey monument, and Ms. Harvey was convicted and sentenced to one year’s probation.

On appeal, Harvey argued that she had removed temporary wooden stakes and flags, rather than permanent objects, such as underground metal pins or concrete monuments. The Superior Court, relying on the statute, noted that the statute excludes wooden stakes placed by a professional land surveyor as temporary markers or placeholders, and granted Harvey judgment of acquittal.

If you would like a consultation on this or any legal matter, do not hesitate to contact Scaringi Law at 717-657-7770.


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