Criminal Damage to Property
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What Is Criminal Damage to Property?
Criminal damage to property is broad category of crimes that involve damage to property, or interference with a person’s right to use the property. The laws on criminal property damage may vary from state to state, as well as the punishments associated with criminal damage to property claims.
While criminal damage to property can include many different types of violations, most state criminal statutes would define criminal damage to property as “knowingly interfering with property without authorization in any manner that endangers the public safety, or interferes with the operation of public utilities like water, transportation, sewage, etc.”
Thus, criminal property damage crimes are different from civil property crimes in that criminal property offenses usually involve a risk of harm to human life, not just damage to the property. Also, the term “property crime” usually involves theft or conversion of a person’s personal property, whereas “damage to property” usually doesn’t always involve theft but rather physical damage to real property.
What Are Some Specific Types of Criminal Damage to Property?
There are many different types of violations that can be listed under the category of “Criminal Damage to Property”. Again, the specific details will be different for each jurisdiction, but some specific types of criminal property crimes include:
- Criminal Mischief: This crime involves damage to property, usually involving a particular dollar amount. To be found guilty, the defendant must have intended to damage the property, and also did not have any rights to the property (or reason to believe that they had rights)
- Criminal Tampering: This occurs when a person intentionally interrupts or impairs public utility services. It may also refer to any unwanted or unauthorized meddling with or altering of another’s property
- Use/Possession of a Noxious Substance: This involves depositing any offensive-smelling substance or irritant (such as a stink bomb) onto another person’s property, land, or in a building. The act must occur without the owner’s consent, and must be conducted for the purpose of interfering with the use of the property. This may also include vehicles
- Criminal Desecration: It is a crime to willfully or maliciously deface, destroy, or injure any gravestone, tomb, monument, or other memorial for the deceased. Some local laws even make it a crime to break, remove, or cut and flower, tree, plant, or decoration found within a cemetery or graveyard
- Littering: Some forms of littering in certain places can be considered a criminal offense
Again, these can vary by state, so be sure to check local laws or consult with a lawyer if you’re unsure of any type of conduct or activity.
What Are the Penalties for Criminal Damage to Property?
Criminal damage to property is usually categorized as a misdemeanor, which typically involves legal consequences like fines and/or a short jail sentence of less than one year. Less serious offenses such as littering can often be punished by a simple fine or citation. However, more serious charges and repeat offenses can sometimes lead to felony charges, which are punishable by jail time of greater than one year and/or higher criminal fees.
One unique aspect of criminal property charges is that the defendant may often have to pay criminal restitution to the owner of the property. Restitution refers to monetary amounts that the defendant must pay in order to compensate the victim for their economic loss. Restitution is not awarded very frequently in criminal cases, but it is somewhat common as a remedy in cases involving criminal damage to property.
Do I Need a Lawyer if I Have Legal Issues Involving Criminal Damage to Property?
Criminal damage to property can often lead to serious criminal consequences. If you are facing charges for criminal damage to property, or if your own property has been damaged, you may wish to contact an experienced criminal attorney in your area. Your lawyer will be able assist you during trial, and help perform different tasks like filing documents or reviewing forms.
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Last Modified: 11-13-2013 03:32 PM PST
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