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Criminal Damage to Property

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What Is Criminal Damage to Property?

Criminal damage to property is a broad category that involves all forms of damage to property. This damage may also involve an interference with another person’s right to use the property. The laws on criminal property damage vary from state to state, as well as the punishments.

Criminal damage to property can include many different types of violations. Most state statutes define criminal damage to property as a knowingly unauthorized trespass or activity that:

  • Endangers public safety
  • Interferes with the operation of public utilities such as water
  • Interferes with transportation, or sewage

Criminal property damage crimes usually involve a risk of harm to human life. Civil property violations, on the other hand, are simply about the damage to the property. Also, the term “property crime” usually involves theft or conversion of a person’s personal property. “Damage to property” crimes usually involve physical damage to real property.

What Are Some Specific Types of Criminal Damage to Property?

There are many different types of violations that qualify as criminal damage to property  Details vary 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. This means the defendant intended to damage the property, and also did not have any rights to it.
  • 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 (i.e. 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 done to interfere with the use of the property.
  • Criminal Desecration: It is a crime that defaces, destroys, or injures any gravestone, tomb, monument, or other memorial for the deceased. Some local laws even make it a crime to break, remove, or cut any 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 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 or a gross misdemeanor. Typically, this 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. These charges 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 to compensate the victim for their economic loss. This type of punishment is somewhat common in cases involving criminal damage to property.

Should I Get a Lawyer If I Have Legal Issues Involving Criminal Damage to Property?

Yes. Criminal damage to property can often lead to serious criminal consequences. You may want to contact a criminal attorney if you are facing charges for criminal damage to property.   Your lawyer can assist you during trial, and help perform different tasks such as filing documents or reviewing forms.

Photo of page author Jessica Tran

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 03-20-2018 09:40 PM PDT

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