Criminal Damage in Arizona: A Guide

Spray painted wall - criminal damage in Arizona

Criminal Damage in Arizona: A Guide

Were you caught damaging someone else’s property? What may have seemed like a harmless prank can have serious consequences. If you’ve been charged with criminal damage in Arizona, it’s important to understand what exactly those charges mean. Let’s take a look at Arizona’s laws about criminal damage and the severity of the penalties you could face.  


What Is Considered Criminal Damage Under Arizona Law?

Criminal damage isn’t limited to tagging a building or knocking down mailboxes. According to Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) 13-1602, someone commits criminal damage when they recklessly do any of the following:

  • Deface or damage someone else’s property.
  • Tamper with another person’s property in a way that substantially impairs its function or value.
  • Damage the property of a utility company (such as telephone poles, service lines, meters, and construction equipment).
  • Park a vehicle in a way that deprives livestock of access to their only available water source.
  • Draw or inscribe anything on a public or private building, surface, or structure (excluding the ground) without permission from the owner—this is otherwise known as graffiti
  • Intentionally tamper with utility property.

If the criminal damage is considered aggravated, you will face harsher penalties. Aggravated criminal damage is defined under ARS 13-1604 as intentionally or recklessly damaging, defacing, tampering with, or otherwise altering the appearance of any:

  • Personal property, building, structure, or place that is used for worship or religious purposes
  • Building, structure, or place being used as a school or educational facility
  • Cemetery, mortuary, or other facility used for burying or memorializing the dead, or any personal property of the place
  • Utility or agricultural property, infrastructure, construction site, or existing structure in order to obtain nonferrous metals

Aggravated or not, a criminal damage charge is often grouped with other charges that depend on the circumstances of the crime. For instance, trespassing and burglary are commonly charged with criminal damage. If you damage jointly owned property that belongs to both you and your partner, it could even be considered domestic violence


What Is the Punishment for Criminal Damage?

Depending on the extent of the destruction, criminal damage can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony offense. 

Criminal Damage

Under ARS 13-06-02, criminal damage is a class 4 felony if the damage amounts to $10,000 or more. Utility damages totaling $5,000 or more and intentional tampering with utility property that results in an imminent safety hazard are also considered a class 4 felony. 

Criminal damage is a class 5 felony if the property damage amounts to anywhere between $2,000 and $10,000. It is also a class 5 felony if the intent behind the damage was to intentionally intimidate on behalf of a gang or criminal syndicate.

The crime is a class 6 felony if the total amount of the damage is $1,000 to $2,000. 

If the damage is valued between $250 to $1,000, it is considered a class 1 misdemeanor. Less serious criminal damage is a class 2 misdemeanor

Aggravated Criminal Damage

Under ARS 13-1604, damage to religious, school, and cemetery property is a class 4 felony if the damage totals $10,000 or more. If the damage totals between $5,000 and $10,000 it’s a class 5 felony. A class 6 felony applies to damage totaling less than $5,000.

Damage to any utility or agricultural infrastructure, property, etc., is a class 3 felony if it amounts to $10,000 or more. It is a class 4 felony if the total is between $5,000 and $10,000, and a class 5 felony if the damage total is less than $5,000. 

Evaluating Graffiti Damage

It’s important to note that when it comes to graffiti (drawing or inscribing anything on a public or private building) the cost of the damage may be much higher than you expect, resulting in a harsher penalty. That’s because calculating the value of the damage includes any reasonable costs relating to cleaning or repairing the property damage, including labor, equipment, and materials. 


Criminal Damage Defense Attorney in Chandler, Arizona

Facing a criminal damage charge can be confusing and stressful. Luckily, Todd Coolidge has over 25 years of experience in criminal defense. Coolidge Law Firm can help you understand what criminal damage charges mean, and will fight for the best outcome for your case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. 


Images used under creative commons license (10/27/22). Photo by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez on Unsplash.