Vandalism can cost the government and individuals millions of dollars a year. These costs come in cleanup and investigation, but it can also take a psychological toll as well. Property owners are at risk of feeling traumatized and experiencing emotional damage. Someone who is convicted of vandalism can face criminal consequences, or they could even be ordered to clean up or repair the damage they have caused. Here’s what you should know about vandalism laws.
What is the Definition of Vandalism?
The term vandalism can refer to many behaviors. In a broad sense, any action that has an intent to damage, deface, or destroy property can be classified as vandalism. This includes spray-painting someone else’s property, scratching paint from a car, smashing windows, throwing eggs at a car, defacing public property, and many others. Someone can also face charges if they merely possess tools or items with the intent to vandalize.
Important Vandalism Law Facts
There are vandalism laws to protect property and public spaces. They are also meant to prevent hate crimes, which are aimed at intimidating minority groups and religions. Criminal property damage laws are state laws, and they can differ between states. They may have different names for vandalism, such as “malicious trespass,” or “criminal damage,” among other names. Some states go as far as to have restrictions on tools that are commonly used for vandalism. This often includes limits on the purchase of aerosol paint containers.
Penalties for Violating Vandalism Laws
Violating vandalism laws can be categorized as either a misdemeanor or a felony offense, depending on the act. The penalty is often a fine, but it can include incarceration. Part of a vandalism penalty is also cleaning up or repairing the damaged property. The term for this is known as restitution. If the offender is a minor, then the parent may be the one who has to pay the fines or perform restitution.
Sometimes vandalism can be defended by claiming that the circumstances mitigated the act. This can mean arguing for creative expression, for instance. The best thing to do is to contact a knowledgeable attorney if you are charged with a crime under vandalism laws.