Charges of criminal damage can be brought any time something of value is intentionally damaged. In community property states, getting angry and kicking a hole in the wall of your home can lead to charges of criminal damage since legally your spouse owns half of all marital assets. In some instances, property crimes can carry sentences as harsh as those against people, with arson being a particularly serious offense. Generally speaking, criminal damage charges may be brought when the property of another is defaced or damaged or even tampered or altered to the extent that the value or function of the item is impaired.
Potential Sentencing for a Criminal Damage Conviction
Tampering with any property of a utility company can result in criminal damage charges as can graffiti on a public or private building without obtaining the consent of the owner. Sentencing for criminal damage charges is dependent on the value of the damaged or defaced property. As a general guideline, damaging property which is valued at over $10,000 could land you in prison for as long as two-three years and you will have to deal with a felony conviction on your record once you are released.
The prison sentence goes down as the value of the damaged property decreases, although even creating $250 in damages can, under some circumstances, cause you to receive as much as a year in prison. Depending on your state, criminal property damage of less than $250 will probably be classified as a misdemeanor however you could still spend time in jail and wind up with a criminal conviction on your record even though it is a lesser misdemeanor.
Damage to a Utility Company
Regardless of the amount of damage, if you damage property belonging to a utility company you will likely face felony charges and end up in prison should you be convicted. Charges of criminal damage can be upgraded to aggravated criminal damage under the following circumstances:
Charges of Arson
The sentences for aggravated criminal damage increase significantly, and almost always include prison time for a conviction. Any type of arson will result in serious consequences; reckless burning is a criminal damage charge in which a person causes an explosion or recklessly burns something resulting in structural or property damage. When a person knowingly and willfully damages unoccupied property or structure by setting a fire or causing an explosion, then arson may be charged, resulting in two years or more in prison upon conviction. Committing arson in an occupied structure is much more serious and will result in more severe penalties should you be convicted.
Legal Help When You Need It
The term used for criminal damage can vary from state to state and can also include criminal mischief, injury to property, malicious damage or malicious destruction of property, malicious mischief and willful malicious destruction. Whatever the circumstances surrounding your charges of criminal damage it is imperative that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side from start to finish. While you may think your charges are relatively minor, your future could be affected in ways you could not even imagine.