Destruction of property is essentially criminal vandalism in the District of Columbia, Virginia, and elsewhere. This property offense can lead to serious criminal and financial consequences if you are convicted. Retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney with specific knowledge and insight into this crime can mean all the difference to your criminal case.
S.L. England, a trusted and resourceful criminal defense attorney representing clients throughout the Northern Virginia/D.C. metro area, will listen to your story, investigate the case when appropriate, and develop a strong, viable defense with the aim to get the charges reduced or dismissed altogether or to win you an acquittal at trial. Contact his law office today to learn more about his approach to criminal defense and how it may specifically help you and your case.
Destruction of Property in D.C.
D.C. Code § 22–303 governs the destruction or injury of another person or entity's property. The offense is committed when a person:
maliciously injures or breaks or destroys, or attempts to injure or break or destroy, by fire or otherwise, any public or private property, whether real or personal, not his or her own...
If the value of the property damaged is more than $1,000, you can be fined for up to $5,000 and/or imprisoned for up to ten years. If the value is less than $1,000, then you can be fined up to $1,000 and/or sentenced up to 180 days in jail.
This offense is not so easily proven, however. The prosecutor must prove that you maliciously destroyed or otherwise damaged the property of another person or entity. Malice in D.C. criminal cases does not mean intent but rather that you acted with
a specific disregard of a known and substantial risk of the harm with which the statute is intended to prevent.
The prosecutor will also have to show that:
- you are in fact the one who destroyed or attempted to destroy the property;
- the property did not belong to you;
- you voluntarily and on purpose rather than by mistake or accident caused the damage; and
- there was some loss in value of the property.
Failure to fulfill all the elements of the crime means you can avoid a conviction. S.L. England will challenge each element of the case according to the circumstances and facts specific to your case.
Destruction of Property in Virginia
Virginia Code § 18.2-137 governs what is typically referred to as destruction of property or vandalism in Virginia. A violation of this code occurs when a person unlawfully:
- damages, or
- removes without the intent to steal the property not of his or her own.
This crime is typically classified as a Class 3 misdemeanor when the injury to the property is not intentional. When the damage is intentional but the value is under $1,000, the crime is charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor. When the value exceeds $1,000, it is a Class 6 felony.
If charged with this offense, you face:
- a fine of up to $500 for a Class 3 misdemeanor;
- potential jail of up to one year and a fine of up to $2,500 for a Class 1 misdemeanor; or
- between one and five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500 for a Class 6 felony.
In all cases, it is at the court's discretion to order restitution at the current market value of the damaged property.
Defenses to a Destruction of Property Charge
In Virginia cases where you did not intend to injury anther's property and compensated the owner for the damage, the court can dismiss the case at its discretion. In other cases, you may have a defense if:
- you did not intend to damage the property;
- you are the owner of the property;
- the property was not damaged by you;
- there was a mistake in fact or identity; or, among other possible defenses,
- there is insufficient evidence to satisfy all the elements of the crime.
Related Destruction of Property Charges
Similar destruction of property cases could be filed under the Virginia Code:
- Section 15.2-1812.2, Willful and malicious damage to or defacement of public or private facilities;
- Section 18.2-135, Destruction of posted signs; posting land of another;
- Section 18.2-140, Destruction of trees, shrubs, etc.; or
- Section 18.2-162, Damage or trespass to public services or utilities.
Retain a D.C./Virginia Metro Area Criminal Defense Lawyer Experienced in Destruction of Property Crimes
You are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. S.L. England ensures that the prosecutor, the judge, and the jury uphold this principle. Contact our law office today either online or by calling us at (202) 489-0720to schedule a consultation regarding the destruction of property offense with which you have been charged.