Criminal offenses generally belong to one of two categories: crimes against the person, and crimes against property. “Crimes against the person” refer to a wide variety of offenses that result in harm to a person’s physical and/or mental well-being. Alternatively, “crimes against property” include crimes associated with theft, damage, and many other types of interference with the property of another person.
Because of this, “property crimes” or “offenses against property” refer to a considerably broad category of crimes within criminal law that involve offenses which interfere with a person’s right to use and/or enjoy their real or personal property.
Although property crimes are generally considered to be misdemeanor crimes, they can be raised to the level of a felony offense if they are committed with the use of a deadly weapon. Additionally, the victim of a property crime may be allowed to request civil remedies to help them recover any damages that were inflicted upon their property during the commission of the alleged property crime.
It is important to note that while they do sometimes overlap, property crimes are generally different from those crimes that are associated with criminal damage to property. The defining difference between the two is that property crimes are more associated with theft, whereas criminal damage to property crimes frequently involve some sort of physical damage to real property.
Vandalism is a specific form of property crime that involves damaging or destroying the property of another person. Additionally, vandalism is usually done willfully, meaning that a person would not accidentally commit vandalism. Some of the most common examples of vandalism include, but may not be limited to:
- Graffiti: Graffiti includes any writing, drawing, and/or symbol that is applied to any surface without the surface owners’ consent to do so;
- Tagging: Tagging specifically refers to writing the person’s name or gang affiliation on someone else’s property without their consent to do so;
- Acquisitive Vandalism: Acquisitive vandalism refers to causing damage and/or destruction in order to obtain money and/or property. An example of this would be breaking into a vending machine in order to get the money or the candy that is inside the machine; and/or
- Sabotage: Sabotage refers to causing damage or destruction of the property in order to render it unusable. Some common examples of sabotage include slashing car tires, gluing locks, and arson.
What Are Structure Property Crimes? What Is Criminal Damage To Property?
Arson, burglary, and vandalism can all be classified as “structure crimes.” This is because they are the kinds of offenses that cause damage to real property, as opposed to personal property. Similar to theft, structure crimes can also be charged as either felonies or misdemeanors. The distinction will depend on the jurisdiction as well as the extent of the damage that was caused to the property involved.
Some examples of what is included under structure crimes include, but may not be limited to:
- The Definition and Different Degrees of Arson;
- Sentencing and Punishment for Burglary Charges;
- Factors Involved in Breaking and Entering;
- Types of Vandalism Offenses; and
- Graffiti and Tagging.
The crime of damage to property is committed when a person intentionally causes damage to another person’s property, without the other person’s permission to do so. More specifically, the following acts would generally constitute the crime of damage to property:
- A person knowingly engages in conduct that causes damage to another person’s property;
- According to some states, if a person damages property by fire or explosion while acting in a reckless manner, this would qualify as criminal damage to property;
- In some states, knowingly starting a fire on land that belongs to another person qualifies as criminal damage to property;
- A person knowingly injures a pet that belongs to another person; and/or
- A person damages property with the intent to collect insurance resulting from the damage.
Criminal damage to property is governed by state law; as such, the specific laws which govern it vary from state to state. Some states have determined that intentionally causing damage to the property of another person is known as the crime of malicious damage to property. However, it is essentially the same crime as criminal damage to property.
The defining feature of the crime is that a person causes damage to the property intentionally and knowingly; meaning, the damage is not associated with negligence or recklessness. However, in some states, severe damage that was inflicted as a result of conduct that is grossly negligent may qualify for the crime.
In terms of context, the specific kinds of damage that can be inflicted on property are just as varied as the kinds of property that can be damaged. Some common examples of the different types of intentional damage or malicious damage include:
- Spray-painting another person’s property with the intent to deface it, which would constitute vandalism;
- Egging someone’s car or house;
- Keying the paint off of another person’s car;
- Slashing the tires of another person’s car;
- Doing wheelies on someone else’s front yard and ruining their lawn; and
- Inflicting damage with your hands and/or feet.
I’m A Victim Of Vandalism, Can I Bring Criminal Charges Against The Vandal?
If you are the victim of vandalism, you should call your local police in order to file a report. Some jurisdictions have ruled that someone who commits multiple acts of vandalism may receive a higher sentence when compared to someone who has only committed this one act of vandalism.
Once you have filed a police report, the government will determine whether or not to file criminal charges against the person. Doing so could lead to a trial.
Depending on the circumstances of your specific case, you may also be allowed to recover in civil court. If so, you would likely sue the vandal under civil tort law for any of the following legal theories:
- Larceny; and
- Other such crimes.
If your property was damaged to the point that it is not usable, you may also be able to recover the cost of the property. This is because the court may take into consideration whether the vandal paid for the property as part of their criminal punishment.
Can I Get Insurance To Protect My Property From Vandalism?
Property insurance reimburses the policyholder for financial losses associated with the insured property. An example of this would be how if you purchase a property insurance policy in order to protect your house, and a tree falls on your house, your insurance provider will pay for the damages if this specific type of damage is covered by your policy.
The most common form of property insurance would be homeowner’s insurance. If you have a mortgage on your home, you are generally required to purchase and maintain homeowner’s insurance. Homeowner’s insurance can protect you from property damage and liability. While many different types of homeowner’s insurance cover vandalism, you may need to specifically name the vandalized property in the insurance coverage.
Do I Need An Attorney For Vandalism Victim Compensation?
If you are the victim of vandalism and are seeking compensation, you will need to consult with an experienced and local criminal defense lawyer.
An attorney will be best suited to helping you understand your rights and legal options according to your state’s specific laws regarding property crimes. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, while working towards a damages award as your compensation.