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Criminal Damage to Property Charges

To define criminal property damage, we first need to clarify what property damage means from a legal point of view. Understand that this is defined in many ways, but always with intent.

Criminal Damage to Property: Laws, Penalties, Defenses

Definition Of Property

Properties are simply important things owned by others. It can be your home, car, TV, cell phone, property, or even your pet. If the item is your property and your name, it is considered your property. The law says that no one has the right to put a finger on it without your consent.

What is Criminal Damage to Property?

Criminal damage to property is the intentional damaging of any property of another, without the consent of the owner. Basically, you can’t destroy someone else’s property, whether it is their house, apartment, car, boat, etc. Many arrests for this charge occur when couples get into fights and throw each other’s cell phones completely destroying it. Since cell phones cost so much these days, the alleged victim will call the police.

Another common example is when a couple gets into an argument and the defendant gets locked out of the house or apartment, then breaks the door to get in.  That value of the damage to the house or apartment will determine if the charge is a misdemeanor or felony.

Criminal damage to property charges occur in the bar scene as well. The defendant may get a little too drunk and cause damage to the bar by breaking windows or other property. In this scenario, there will usually be a disturbing the peace charge associated with it. 

The other common type of criminal damage charge is vandalism. It is more common for younger defendants to get charged with vandalism. Breaking into a building and destroying the property inside would lead to a charge. Or if the defendant decides to spray paint the victim’s car or key the sides of the car, he would probably be looking at a felony simple criminal damage charge.

Intentional Damage Is Considered Criminal Damage

No matter how small or large the damages are, intentional damage to the property is considered criminal damage to the property. Of course, the offender’s punishment depends on the extent of the damage, but even if your property is saved from serious damage, it does not mean you or your property wasn’t at risk for damages. Risk is just as important, because it indicates that under the correct circumstances real damage would have been done, leading to a much more serious outcome. Therefore, if the victim placed the property at a high risk of being damaged, it may be difficult for the prosecutor to prove that the defendant intentionally damaged the property.

criminal damage to property
Criminal Damage to Property

Types of Criminal Damage to Property

Below we will discuss some of the types of criminal damage to property. And if you find yourself in a situation where you are being charged with criminal damage to property, it’s crucial to hire a criminal defense attorney to help with your charges. Doing so you will see a better outcome for your case and possibly have charges drastically reduced.

Aggravated v. Simple Criminal Damage

Aggravated Criminal Property Damage

The crime of aggravated property damage is a more serious charge. This is the act of intentionally damaging someone else’s property without their consent when it is foreseeable that

someone may be injured. This offense carries a penalty of 1 to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. This means the defendant could spend at least a year in prison if convicted.

Simple Criminal Property Damage

Simple criminal damage to property is defined as damage to the property of the victim, except in the case of fire, when the offender intentionally causes the damage. If fire or explosion is used, it would become an arson charge. Aggravated criminal damage to property occurs when it is foreseeable that human life might be endangered.

For example, if the defendant shoots up another person’s car or house with no intent to kill or injure, he may get arrested for aggravated criminal damage. Another example is when the defendant uses the vehicle he is driving to cause damage by running into another car or property. The prosecutor would argue that if someone was present, their life could be endangered.

Basically, the main difference between aggravated and simple is that the means of committing the damage during the act of the simple criminal damage probably wouldn’t endanger another’s life. With aggravated, if someone happen to be present, their life could be endangered.

Can you get jail time for criminal damage?

You can get jail time for criminal damage to property.  Although, probation is allowed if the judge decides to order it. The punishment for criminal damage to property varies based on the alleged value of the damage.

  • If the damage is less than $1,000, the simple criminal damage to property charge will be a misdemeanor punishable by 0 to 6 months in prison.
  • If the damage value is greater than $1,000 but less than $50,000, the charge becomes a felony punishable by zero to two years in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
  • If the value of the damage is over $50,000, defendants can face prison sentences of 1 to 10 years and fines of up to $10,000.

In addition, the judge can order the defendant to reimburse the victim for damages. As you can see, this charge gets worse as the value increases.  There are many factors that go into a judge’s decision to order a jail sentence versus probation such as the facts, victim’s impact statement, prior acts, prior convictions, and the perceived threat that the defendant could do it again.

Arson is Different

When it comes to arson, it’s a different type of criminal damage to property charge that includes damage caused by intentional burning or the use of explosives. However, in most states, arson is considered a much more serious crime than criminal property damage. If charged with a felony and the penalty for arson could be up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000, depending on the extent of the damage caused. Although arson is a separate charge it can still be classified under criminal property damage, under specific circumstances.

How Do I Prove Criminal Damage to my Property?

If you are a victim in a criminal damage to property case, then you have probably already called the police and made a complaint. The case will then go the prosecutor or DA’s office to go to court. You will need to be able to prove that damage was in fact done to your property by the defendant and that he did not have consent to damage the property. You can take photos or video to show the extent of damage to the property. Also, you will need to prove the value of that property damage. For instance, if the cell phone repair bill was $500, then you would need to have a receipt or estimate showing that.

Is Criminal Damage to Property a Felony in Louisiana?

There are two primary criminal damage to property charges in Louisiana. They are simple criminal damage to property and aggravated criminal damage to property.  Aggravated criminal damage is always a felony charge. Simple criminal damage to property can be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the alleged value of the damage.

How Do You Beat a Destruction of Property Charge?

You can beat a destruction of property charge on the facts if the victim and prosecutor cannot prove an essential element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. They must be able to prove the following:

  1. The property damage occurred
  2. It was intentional
  3. It was without consent of the owner

You can beat the charge if the victim cannot show that there was even damage caused by the defendant. For instance, the damage may have been pre-existing. Maybe it was caused by someone else or the victim herself. You can beat the charge if there was no intent to cause the damage. If it was just an accident, such as a car wreck, then we’d argue that the defendant shouldn’t get convicted.  The victim must be able to prove that the damage had value.  If there cannot be a value placed on it, then maybe there really is no damage, at least not enough to support a felony charge.

Why knowing the difference is vital to your future

In some states, prosecutors will file a complaint of willful destruction or purported destruction of property against a person who intentionally damages or destroys real property or personal property. someone else’s person.

The criminal offense of damaging property is different for every state and regulated by the local jurisdiction. In most states, the penalties vary depending on whether the offender is found guilty of a misdemeanor or felony. The cost of repairing damage caused during a crime often determines whether he/she is charged with a misdemeanor or felony.

The first and foremost thing to do in the event of an allegation of property damage is to seek the legal assistance of a property damage attorney.

When seeking your criminal mischief attorney make sure you are giving specific details as this may be important when or if you go to trial, as helps your defense properly understand your situation. A defense that has a successful past in representing criminal cases like your own is also important.

Experienced, knowledgeable, and effective are qualities to be desired when choosing counsel, to ensure you receive the best possible outcome of your case. 

Hire A Lawyer For Criminal Damage To Property Charges

The bottom line is that you should hire a lawyer for criminal damage to property charges. As you can see criminal damage to property charges can be very serious. Often times, they will be accompanied by other charges as well. But we know how to successfully defend these charges. If you or someone you know has a criminal damage charge, feel free to give me a call. I’ll be happy to help.

Doing so will give you the best result for any charges you may be facing. Barkemeyer Law Firm has defended clients with criminal damage to property charges in Louisiana for 18 years.  We have seen many different fact scenarios when it comes to this charge. We know which defenses work and which don’t. 


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DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is not formal legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

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