Vandalizing, graffiti, or defacing property is a criminal offense in Virginia. Destruction of property can be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the type of damage involved. In addition to jail time and fines, destruction of property can also require payment to restore or replace the damaged property.
Destruction of property can involve domestic disputes, a protest, or antics after having too much to drink. Your lawyer can challenge the case in court or negotiate a deal to get the charges reduced or dropped. If you were arrested for vandalism or destruction of property in Virginia, contact me as soon as possible to discuss your matter.
Destruction of Property Statute in Virginia
Under Virginia Code § 18.2-137, it is a crime to unlawfully do any of the following to property that is not your own:
- Remove without the intent to steal, or
- Break down.
The damage does not necessarily have to be severe. Removing property may also be considered against the law, even if the individual never intended to keep the property. Removing the property with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property may be considered theft or larceny, depending on the circumstances.
Types of Property
The statute includes any personal property or real property. This could include land, a car, building, or other property, including:
- War veteran monuments or memorials,
- Monuments marking the site of any engagement fought during the War between the States,
- Boundaries of any city, town, tract of land, or any tree marked for that purpose.
Penalties for Destruction of Property
The penalties for destruction of property in Virginia generally depend on whether the damage was done intentionally and the value of the property damage.
If the defendant did not intend to damage the property, destruction of property is a Class 3 misdemeanor. A conviction for a Class 3 misdemeanor includes a fine of up to $500. This includes recklessness that caused property damage. For example, if someone was throwing rocks at a tree and they missed the tree, hitting a car, they may be charged for destruction of property, depending on the circumstances.
Intentionally causing injury or destroying property with a value of less than $1,000 is a Class 1 misdemeanor. The penalties for a Class 1 misdemeanor conviction includes up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Intentionally vandalizing or destroying property valued at $1,000 or more is a Class 6 felony. The penalties for Class 6 felony conviction can include 1 year to 5 years imprisonment, or, at the discretion of the court, confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of up to $2,500.
Value of the Damage
The value of the damage, for the sake of determining whether the destruction is a felony or misdemeanor, can be established by the fair market cost of repair or fair market replacement value.
Many individuals charged with property damage are surprised to find themselves faced with a felony because the property damage seemed minor.
Restitution for the Damage
The court may also order the defendant to pay restitution for the repair or replacement of the damaged property.
Charlottesville Vandalism and Property Destruction Defense Lawyer
There may be a number of legal defenses available to charges of vandalism or property destruction. This includes mistaken identity, the accused owned the property damaged, or the damage happened by mistake. If you or a loved one was arrested for vandalism in Charlottesville, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney about how to fight criminal charges and avoid a criminal record. Contact me today for a free consultation.