What is Criminal Damage and What are the Penalties?

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The field of criminal law sometimes lists criminal damages as criminal mischief or vandalism, which happens whenever someone defaces or damages public or private property. Acts of criminal damage range from writing your name on a stop sign to damaging the city water system. Other types of vandalism include stealing copper wire from under a home. Acts of criminal damage have a wide scope with wide-ranging consequences depending on the level of damage.

Criminal Damage as Defined in Arizona

Someone accused of criminal damage in Arizona will have to meet the qualifications for this crime, which includes the following elements:

  • Defacement or damage of property
  • Tampering with property to damage its value
  • Graffiti on property without approval
  • Parking a vehicle in such a way as to prevent livestock from accessing water
  • Damage of water or electric utilities

Common acts of criminal damage include throwing rocks through windows or at cars, keying cars, or kicking over plants.

What is the Punishment?

Punishment for criminal damage mainly depends on the extent of the damage. For example, damage below $250 carries a possible four-month jail sentence, a $750 fine, and is classified as a Class II Misdemeanor. For damage between $250 to $1,000, you face a $2,500 fine and up to six months in jail. It is classified as a Class I Misdemeanor.

Damages from $1,000 to $2,000 are classified as a Class 6 Felony, and you could spend up to 2 years in prison. With damages between $2,500 to $10,000, you face a Class 5 Felony and you could spend 2.5 years in prison. For damages over $10,000, the law could charge you with a Class 4 Felony. They could punish you with up to 3.75 years in prison.

Aggravated Criminal Damage Charges

Defacing some property will lead to more serious charges than others in the Copper State. Aggravated criminal damage receives more serious sentences. Examples of aggravated criminal damage include:

  • Defacing a religious building or house of worship
  • Damaging a school or educational institution
  • Damaging a cemetery
  • Damaging any utility or agricultural infrastructure or property

Anyone convicted of aggravated criminal damage, depending on the location of the damage and the amount of the damage, could face up to 8/75 years in prison.

How Do Lawyers Defend You from Criminal Damage Charges?

Anyone who faces criminal damage charges needs a well-qualified Arizona lawyer. You need someone who will spend the necessary time on your case and protect your legal rights. A criminal attorney has a few ways that they can have the charges dismissed or reduced, such as:

  • Proving innocence or showing there is insufficient evidence to prove the State’s case
  • Showing a lack of reckless actions
  • Proving a lack of intent to cause damage
  • Showing how the damage didn’t hurt the usefulness or value of property
  • Insufficient actions to cause damage to the property

Putting together a criminal defense, an attorney has multiple options that they could use for defense. In most cases, the law looks at criminal damage charges as serious and you could face incarceration if convicted. You want to put an experienced and knowledgeable attorney on your side who understands how to defend you from charges like this.

Specific Types of Criminal Damage Charges

Someone charged with criminal damage could face a specific type of charge, such as:

  • Criminal desecration
  • Criminal mischief
  • Criminal tampering
  • Use or possession of a noxious substance
  • Littering

Believe it or not, even some types of littering carry serious charges, such as littering in a wildlife preserve. For example, littering in the Grand Canyon could lead to a $150 fine and up to 20 hours of community service. Criminal damage carries heavy fines and possible jail time. You must take it seriously and hire an Arizona lawyer who understands this realm of law. Having a lawyer means getting qualified assistance during the trial, and they will perform various legal tasks like putting together a defense and reviewing and filing legal documents related to your case.


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