Phoenix Vandalism Defense Attorney

Everyone makes mistakes, especially in their youth. Vandalism is a common crime that is often a simple act of rebelliousness or recklessness. Regardless of the intent behind the property damage, Arizona takes these crimes seriously. Vandalism is referred to as “criminal damage” in Arizona – a crime that can come with a presumptive jail sentence, hefty fine and other repercussions for a defendant who is found guilty. At AZ Defenders, we believe that a single mistake should not destroy your life. Our Phoenix criminal defense lawyers are passionate about helping clients protect themselves and defend their rights. With assistance from our vandalism defense attorneys, you may be able to avoid the most serious potential consequences of this crime to minimize the effect that it has on your life. Contact us today to start your Phoenix vandalism defense with a free consultation.

Phoenix Vandalism Resources

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Why Choose the AZ Defenders?
What is Criminal Damage?
What is Aggravated Criminal Damage?
Common Examples of Vandalism
Possible Penalties for Criminal Damage and Vandalism in Phoenix
Is Criminal Damage to Property a Felony?
Defenses to a Criminal Damage Charge
Phoenix Vandalism and Criminal Damage FAQ
Speak to an Attorney Today

Why Choose AZ Defenders for a Phoenix Vandalism Case?

  • Our criminal defense lawyers in Phoenix will do everything in their power to secure a positive case outcome on your behalf. We are an aggressive and highly experienced criminal defense law firm in Arizona.
  • We keep our phone lines open 24/7 to take your call and provide a free, no-obligation case consultation anytime. Our lawyers are here for you when you need help the most after being arrested for vandalism.
  • You will benefit from attention to your case from a team of trial attorneys. We pay attention to detail and prepare each case as if it will go to trial to achieve optimal case outcomes. You will receive dedicated care during every stage of your case.

Phoenix Vandalism Defense Attorney

What Is Criminal Damage?

Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) Section 13-1602 states that a person commits criminal damage when he or she intentionally tampers with utility property or recklessly commits any of the following acts:

  • Defaces or damages the property of another person.
  • Tampers with the property of another person in a way that substantially impairs its function or value.
  • Damages property of a utility.
  • Parks a vehicle in a way that deprives livestock of access to the only available source of water.
  • Draws or inscribes a message, sign, slogan or symbol on any public or private building, structure or surface without the property owner’s permission.

A criminal damage charge can be specific based on the exact type of damage or offense allegedly committed. Examples include criminal mischief, criminal tampering, criminal desecration and littering. The penalties that you may face for a criminal damage conviction in Arizona depend on the type of charge.

What Is Aggravated Criminal Damage?

Aggravated criminal damage is defined in ARS 13-1604. It has the same basic definition of vandalism as standard criminal damage in Arizona. However, it describes more serious offenses that lead to the crime being considered aggravated (along with more severe penalties). Aggravated criminal damage encompasses defacing, damaging, altering the appearance of or tampering with any of the following:

  • Any structure or place used for worship or religious purposes.
  • Any building or place used for educational purposes, such as a school or college.
  • Any cemetery, mortuary, or facility used to bury or memorialize the dead.
  • Any infrastructure or property used for utilities, construction or agriculture for the purpose of obtaining nonferrous metals, such as copper.

The penalties for aggravated criminal damage are more severe than standard criminal damage in Arizona. For example, this crime may be charged as a class 3 felony in some circumstances. This is a more serious level of crime than any other charges for standard criminal damage under Arizona law. Being charged with a class 3 felony can lead to jail time, thousands of dollars in fines, and the loss of your basic rights and freedoms.

Common Examples of Vandalism

Criminal damage can refer to many acts of vandalism that are committed on purpose or with a reckless disregard for the property or safety of others. If the individual did not have the express permission of the owner of the property to alter or change the appearance of the building, structure or object, he or she may be charged with criminal damage in Phoenix. Common examples of vandalism include:

  • Using spray paint or painting graffiti on a structure or surface
  • Shooting or damaging traffic signs
  • Toilet-papering a house
  • Egging a structure or vehicle
  • Hitting a mailbox with a baseball bat
  • Keying someone’s vehicle
  • Slashing someone’s tires
  • Breaking windows
  • Damaging furniture or belongings
  • Stealing elements of a vehicle, structure or utility
  • Recklessly setting fire to a structure 
  • Desecrating a grave or place of worship

If someone commits vandalism or criminal damage with intent to harm, intimidate, threaten or harass someone, it can be viewed as malicious vandalism or vandalism with malicious intent. For example, vandalizing a church due to ideological differences can be viewed as a religious hate crime. A hate crime can increase the penalties associated with criminal damage.

Possible Penalties for Criminal Damage and Vandalism in Phoenix

Being arrested for criminal damage or vandalism in Arizona can have a significant effect on your life. This is not a crime to take lightly, even if the defendant is a juvenile. The Arizona courts discourage property damage crimes by penalizing convicted defendants harshly. The punishment for a vandalism conviction varies according to the facts of the case and the severity of the property damage:

  • Property damage of $250 or less: 4-month jail sentence and/or a $750 fine.
  • Property damage of $250 to $1,000: up to 6 months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.
  • Property damage of $1,000 to $2,000: up to 2 years in prison.
  • Property damage of $2,500 to $10,000: up to 2.5 years in prison.
  • Property damage of $10,000 or more: up to 3.75 years in prison.

You could also face penalties such as mandatory community service hours, probation and money owed to the victim in restitution. Criminal damage is a wobbler offense, meaning that a prosecutor can enter the charge as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the value of the property damage. The higher the extent of the damage, the more severe the charge will be – and the more significant the criminal consequences. If you’ve been charged with vandalism in Arizona, you should speak to a Phoenix criminal damage attorney as soon as possible. 

Is Criminal Damage to Property a Felony?

The answer to this question depends on the case. The main factor in determining whether the Arizona courts will charge this crime as a misdemeanor or felony is the value of the damage to the property that has been vandalized. Criminal damage can be charged as a felony and punished accordingly if the value of the property damage caused by the defendant’s reckless or intentional actions reaches or exceeds $1,000. The defendant’s criminal history and other factors can also play a role in the degree of the crime charged.

Aggravated criminal damage is always a felony. Standard criminal damage is charged as a class 4 felony if the property damage is valued at $10,000 or more. If the damage is valued at $5,000 or more and it is to the property of a utility – or if it creates an imminent safety hazard – criminal damage is also a class 4 felony. Otherwise, it is a class 5 or class 6 felony for property damage equal to $2,000 to $10,000 or $1,000 to $2,000, respectively. It is a class 1 misdemeanor if the property damage is equal to $250 to $1,000. All other cases are charged as class 2 misdemeanors.

The value of the property damage is calculated by analyzing what it will cost to restore the property to its previous condition or replace destroyed property, including the price of materials, labor and equipment. The consequences of each type of crime can vary significantly. A felony takes away some of a defendant’s basic rights, for example, such as voting privileges and the right to bear arms. A vandalism defense lawyer in Phoenix can use a defense method that minimizes the charges against you as much as possible.

Defenses to a Criminal Damage Charge

It is the prosecutor’s burden to prove that you are guilty of the elements of Arizona’s criminal damage statute beyond a reasonable doubt. At AZ Defenders, we will devise a strong defense strategy to poke holes in the prosecutor’s case against you. We will work closely with you to learn your story and personalize your defense based on the facts of your case. Examples of potential defense options for criminal damage or vandalism charges are:                                    

  • Wrong defendant. It may be possible to show that the prosecution has the wrong defendant, such as an alibi that proves you were somewhere else when the crime took place. If you were at the scene, a plausible defense could be mere presence – that you were merely at the scene of the crime and took no part in the vandalism (you were in the wrong place at the wrong time). There may also be an argument available for mistaken identity.
  • Negligence, not recklessness. To avoid a criminal conviction, your lawyer may be able to argue that your actions meet the definition of mere negligence, but not recklessness. This can show that your actions fall short of the definition of criminal damage, which is intentionally or recklessly damaging someone else’s property.
  • Legitimate accident. Your lawyer may be able to demonstrate that the damage or defacing of the victim’s property was a legitimate accident, with no recklessness or intent to damage the premises. For example, if you were painting your own house and accidentally spilled paint on your neighbor’s fence, the accident defense may block a criminal conviction.
  • No causation. Another possibility is showing that your actions were not the true cause of the victim’s property damage. Even if you were at the scene of the incident, there may be evidence that something else caused the damage, such as bad weather or a crowd of people who were also on the premises.
  • Necessity. It may be possible to defend against vandalism charges by showing that the marring of a surface or structure was reasonably necessary to protect yourself or others. You may have had to break a window to save a child from a hot car, for example – in which case you would not be convicted of criminal damage.

Our defense attorneys at AZ Defenders do not encourage every client to plead no contest or take a plea deal. Each case is unique; we don’t subscribe to a one-size-fits-all approach for criminal defense. We deliver personalized defense strategies that are aimed at achieving the best possible results for each individual case and client. 

Phoenix Vandalism FAQ

  • Can I go to jail for vandalism in Arizona? Yes. Even a low level of vandalism, resulting in property damage worth less than $250, can come with a jail sentence of up to four months. However, a skilled criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate for a reduced sentence or no jail time
  • What are the penalties for graffitiing in Phoenix? Graffiti is viewed as an act of vandalism or criminal damage and punished according to the value of the property damage inflicted by the spray paint or tag. This crime may be charged as a felony based on the cost of property repairs and could result in jail time. 
  • What if the defendant is a juvenile? A juvenile vandalism case can result in a sentence that is geared more toward rehabilitation than punishment, especially if it is the minor’s first arrest. This may include a fine, restitution, detention/probation or a juvenile diversion program.
  • Do I need a criminal defense lawyer for a vandalism charge? Yes. Your future is at risk if you’ve been arrested or charged with criminal damage in Phoenix. Hiring a lawyer to represent you is the best way to defend your rights and avoid the worst possible outcomes of this criminal charge.
  • What should I do if I’m arrested for vandalism? Use your right to remain silent. Don’t answer any questions asked during a police interrogation until you have an attorney present. Be polite and cooperate with the arrest otherwise. As soon as you’re booked at the police station and given your one phone call, use it to contact a lawyer in Phoenix for immediate assistance. 

Phoenix Vandalism Defense Lawyer

Speak to a Phoenix Vandalism Defense Lawyer With the AZ Defenders Today

If you are facing vandalism or criminal damage charges of any kind in Phoenix, Arizona, contact AZ Defenders for a free case evaluation right away. Our criminal defense lawyers can offer advice and assistance to give you greater peace of mind during this difficult time. We can take over your case from the very beginning for the best possible odds of a positive outcome. Our lawyers are dedicated to your rights, success and future. Call us today at (480) 456-6400 to speak to an attorney at no cost or obligation.