Penalties for Criminal Damage in Phoenix

criminal damage in arizona - private property no trespassing sign

Penalties for Criminal Damage in Phoenix

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A person who recklessly or intentionally damages another person’s property may face charges of criminal damage in Arizona. In some cases, property damage can carry serious penalties, including fines and jail time. What is criminal damage? Let’s take a look at an example.

Late one night, two young men are driving home, and it is raining heavily, which makes the road dangerously slick. Despite the weather, the driver speeds up, takes a turn too fast, and loses control of the vehicle. The car skids across the road and careens onto private property, knocking over a portion of the fence and the mailbox, damaging them both. 

The noise wakes up the homeowners. After looking out the window to see what happened, they call the police. The police arrive and investigate the situation, then arrest the driver for the crime of criminal damage. 

What is criminal damage in Arizona?

Arizona statute ARS 13-1602 defines criminal damage as any of the following actions: 

  • Recklessly damaging or defacing another person’s property
  • Tampering with another person’s property in a reckless manner, diminishing the property’s value or function
  • Drawing or writing a message, sign, symbol, or slogan on a public or private building, structure, or surface—except for the ground—without the property owner’s permission
  • Damaging a utility’s property in a reckless way
  • Intentionally meddling with a utility property
  • Parking a vehicle in a way that stops livestock from having access to water

According to the wording of the statute, a person charged with criminal damage acted recklessly. That means the person knew there were risks to their actions, but knowingly disregarded them and acted anyway.

What are the potential penalties for criminal damage?

ARS 13-1602 is a wobbler law. This means a judge can charge a defendant with either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the extent of the crime. Generally speaking, the cost of the property damage is what determines the severity of the penalty.

  • Property damage $250 or below: Class 2 misdemeanor with up to four months in county jail
  • Property damage between $250 and $1,000: Class 2 misdemeanor with up to 12 months in county jail
  • Property damage between $1,000 and $2,000: Class 6 felony with up to two years in state prison
  • Property damage between $2,000 and $10,000: Class 5 felony with up to two-and-a-half years in state prison
  • Property damage exceeding $10,000: Class 4 felony with up to four years in state prison

What is aggravated criminal damage?

A similar statute relating to criminal damage is ARS 13-1604. This law covers aggravated criminal damage relating to damaging or defacing property at a school or educational facility, house of worship, or mortuary.

Penalties for crimes under ARS 13-1604 are all considered felonies. The severity of the punishment is again defined by the cost of the property damage. Penalties range from a Class 6 with up to two years in prison to a Class 3 felony with up to 8.75 years in prison. 

What defenses can a lawyer use against ARS 13-602 charges?

A criminal defense lawyer has three main defense options for criminal damage crimes. They can argue that the destructive actions were necessary, that the person charged did not act recklessly, or prove that the person’s actions were not reckless at all.

The person’s actions were necessary.

In our earlier scenario, let’s say another car was on the road at the same time. This car was driving on the wrong side of the road, coming straight at our driver. In order to avoid a head-on collision, the driver swerved, and because of the slick road the car hit and damaged the fence and mailbox. In this situation, a criminal defense attorney could argue that the driver acted out of necessity in an emergency situation. 

The person’s actions were not reckless.

As we already mentioned, Arizona law states that the criminal damage must have been committed recklessly. A criminal defense specialist could produce evidence suggesting the defendant’s actions were not reckless and that the damage was purely accidental. 

There was no property damage.

Properties frequently suffer damages from weather, wild animals, and even the effects of time. A criminal defense lawyer could use evidence showing the property was previously damaged and that the person charged was not responsible.

Criminal Damage Defense Lawyer in Chandler

Criminal damage in Arizona is a serious crime. If you face charges of criminal damage, you need a professional criminal defense specialist like Todd Coolidge at your side to ensure your case has the best outcome possible. All potential penalties carry time behind bars, not to mention the effects a crime like this would have on your permanent record. Contact our office today to make an appointment for a defense consultation. 

Photo by Gene Gallin on Unsplash

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