As one of the most common property crimes in Virginia, destruction of property encompasses several illegal behaviors including acts of vandalism, illegally removing, damaging, or tampering with other people’s property. While these offenses can be considered either “unlawful” or “intentional” depending on the circumstances involved and the value of the affected property, they are usually punished harshly throughout the state and can result in a criminal conviction appearing on your record, expensive fines, the need to pay restitution, and even time behind bars in severe cases.
At Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico, our experienced and highly-skilled Roanoke property crime attorneys know how distressing these charges can be and how important it is to preserve your record as well as your reputation. Whether it involves arranging a meeting with all the parties involved to have the property returned to its original condition or defending you against the allegations altogether, we will strive to find the best possible resolution to you or your loved one’s destruction of property case.
Intentional or Unlawful Destruction of Property
When criminal charges for damaging property arise, your level of “intent” is often discussed. This means the resulting damage may be viewed as unlawful or illegal, but not necessarily intentional or deliberate. If you are recklessly driving down the road and strike another car, your actions and the subsequent damage may be considered unlawful because, despite your speed, there was no desire to hit the vehicle in question. However, if you see someone’s car in a parking lot that you do not particularly like and decide to scratch the side with your keys, that would constitute an intentional destruction of property.
Under Virginia code §18.2-137, unlawful or intentional destruction of property cases are typically treated as Class 3 or Class 1 misdemeanors respectively. However, if the value of the intentionally damaged property is $1,000 or more, the offense may be raised to a Class 6 felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment between one and five years, or 12 months in jail and a $2,500, either, or both.
Destruction of Property Crimes & Penalties
The most common type of property damage offense in Virginia is Destruction of Property (without intention to steal). This essentially criminalizes vandalizing, defacing, or otherwise damaging property without the intent to steal it. This offense also makes it illegal to damage or remove any monuments, memorials, or markers meant to commemorate the site of any engagement, or for designating the boundaries of any city, town, piece of land, or any tree marked for that purpose.
If the value of the damage is less than $1,000, it is charged as a misdemeanor. On the other hand, if the damage is more than $1,000, it constitutes a Class 6 felony.
- Unlawfully Damaging Property: If the property in question was unlawfully damaged, the alleged offender can be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor.
- Intentionally Damaging Property (Less than $1000): If the property was deliberately damaged but worth less than $1000, the charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
- Intentionally Damaging Property (More than $1000): If the property was deliberately damaged but the value was more than $1000, the charge is a Class 6 felony.
- Destruction of Church and Cemetery Property: This covers the intentional or malicious destruction of church property, cemeteries, and burial grounds. It is considered a misdemeanor to block church and cemetery entrances as well as damage or remove plants, flowers, or objects. The deliberate destruction of a gravesite or tombstone is treated as a felony and the if convicted, the offender will also be held responsible for paying restitution.
- Destruction of Public Buildings: This penalizes the willful and unlawful damaging or defacing of certain documents and/or public facilities. If the damage is worth less than $1,000, it is charged as a misdemeanor; however, if it is above the $1,000 threshold, it is a felony offense.
- Tampering with a Vehicle: Intentionally defacing, damaging or destroying a part or parts of any vehicle is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Other Possible Consequences of a Conviction
Remember that all destruction of property-related charges are fairly serious and just like other convictions, they will result in a mark against your permanent criminal record. Additionally, a destruction of property conviction is among the types of crimes in Virginia that can never receive an expungement. This means that you will need to carry that conviction forever, possibly causing significant immigration problems, the loss of your professional license, or making future employment, housing, and school applications much more difficult.
Building Your Defense
To be convicted of the most serious destruction of property offenses, the prosecution will need to prove that you not only intentionally caused the damage, but that the value exceeded a certain dollar amount. In most cases, a skilled criminal defense lawyer will argue against these claims and refute the purported value placed on the damage, which will usually be based on unsupportable repair estimates. Without a clear value of the damage, the question of your intentions will come into play. By effectively and accurately communicating with your attorney, they can advocate on your behalf and possibly present a case that the incident that resulted in your charges was truly an accident and you should not be held criminally responsible.
In addition to building the strongest possible defense strategy to mitigate or possibly eliminate the charges against you, it may be possible to resolve the situation in part or completely by agreeing to pay restitution for the claimed damage. This is money paid to directly to the victim rather than the court to repair or replace the victim’s property. Restitution agreements can be facilitated prior to bringing your case to trial, but a judge also has the authority to order restitution as part of any other penalties.
How a Roanoke Property Crime Lawyer Can Help
Whether you are charged with recklessly sideswiping a car, vandalizing a building with spray-paint, or breaking a neighbor’s window, it is critical to discuss the matter with a knowledgeable legal professional. The Roanoke criminal defense lawyers with Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico know that being charged with destruction of property can be a frustrating and intimidating ordeal. Whatever the details of your case, we can accurately evaluate how the state may proceed and how to best handle the situation.