Destruction of Property (Vandalism)
Intentionally damaging someone else's property is a crime in Virginia. The damage can be to personal property, like a cell phone. Or the damage can be to real property, like doing donuts in someone's front lawn and tearing up their grass.
What is the punishment for Destruction of Property?
Destroying someone's property is a Class 3 misdemeanor by default. A Class 3 misdemeanor is punishable by up to a $500 fine. But destruction of property can also be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor is the value of the damage to the property is less than $1000.00. A Class 1 misdemeanor carries up to 12 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. If the value to the damage to the property is over $1000.00, then it's punishable as a Class 6 felony. A Class 6 felony carries up to 5 years in prison.
What can I do to avoid a conviction?
If you've never been convicted of a felony, you can have the charge deferred and then dismissed if you comply with the conditions of probation. The judge will probably require that you complete some kind of community service, pay restitution for the damage, and stay out of trouble. If you do those things, the charge can be dismissed.
What are the possible defenses against a Destruction of Property charge?
There are several possible defenses to a Destruction of Property charge:
- Claim of right: if you can show that the property is actually yours or that you have some valid right to the property, you can avoid a conviction for destruction of property. It's not a crime to destroy your own property.
- Necessity: necessity is a defense to many crimes. If you can show that the circumstances required you to damage someone else's property, you can avoid a conviction. For example, if someone is driving toward you in the wrong lane of traffic and the only way to avoid a head on collision is to run off the road into someone's fence, you will likely not be charged or convicted of destruction of property.
- Self-defense: if someone's property gets damaged when you are attempting to defend yourself, that could constitute a defense to destruction of property.
If you've been charged with destruction of property, please call. I can inform you of your options and determine whether you have any possible defenses to the charge. Even if you do not have any defenses, I can help you have the charge deferred and then dismissed to preserve your record.