Vandalism Laws and Punishment in Arizona

vandalism laws An act of vandalism isn’t something you can get away with easily. The act is a criminal offense that can have serious legal repercussions. Even if juvenile vandalism is committed, there will still be major 7*

How Is Vandalism Defined in Arizona?

Arizona Revised Statute 13-1602 provides a clear definition of what vandalism (criminal damage) is. You will be committing vandalism when:

  • You deface or damage somebody else’s property
  • You recklessly tamper with the property
  • You damage the property of a utility
  • You park a vehicle in a way that keeps livestock from reaching water
  • You draw symbols or write messages on a property without getting the owner’s permission

In a few situations, vandalism will be perceived as a much more serious crime. Damaging places of worship, defacing property owned by schools and educational facilities, defacing and damaging cemetery property and tampering with agricultural property will be classified as aggravated criminal damage. Aggravated criminal damage can be classified as a Class 6 to Class 4 felony, depending on the circumstances and the seriousness of the offense.

Juvenile Vandalism in Arizona

Even if a perpetrator is underage, they will still be committing a serious offense.

Young people are more prone to committing vandalism. They’re immature and in their minds, damaging or defacing somebody’s property could be seen as a funny prank. In reality, the repercussions will be major regardless of the perpetrator’s intent.

The laws in Arizona apply to everyone, regardless of their age. The only difference is that when an act of vandalism is committed by someone under the age of 18, they will be dealt with by the juvenile justice system.

The juvenile justice system in Arizona makes it possible for the judge to impose a much broader range of penalties in the case of underage vandalism. The court will examine all of the key factors and two underage perpetrators could receive quite different sentences for similar acts of vandalism.

Some of the common penalties in the case of juvenile vandalism include fines, the payment of restitution to the property’s owner, probation, detention and/or inclusion in a juvenile diversion program. Diversion programs are similar to probation but the minor perpetrator will have to comply with a different set of terms and conditions. Such programs are typically made available to first-time offenders. Click here for additional information on Arizona vandalism criminal defense.

Common Vandalism Defenses

As you can see, vandalism is a serious criminal offense. You will need a reputable and experienced legal representative to counter the claims made by the prosecution.

Various defense scenarios could be effective in the case of criminal property damage.

The first and most obvious strategy involves proving that the defendant had a permission from the property’s owner. Say graffiti appears on the wall of a property. If the owner has granted the defendant a permit to draw on the surface, there will be no criminal act.

A second possible line of defense will involve proving that the defendant has ownership of the property and they were fully entitled to causing damage or changing its appearance in one way or another.

When property damage occurs as an accident rather than an act of vandalism, there will be no crime.

The prosecution will have to prove intentional damage. They will need to establish beyond a doubt that the defendant acted intentionally to damage or deface a property. If an act of “vandalism” is committed without malicious intent, there will be nothing to prosecute.

Finally, a criminal defense lawyer could argue that the act was a form of political expression or art. For vandalism to occur, a property must lose some of its value as a result of the criminal damage. Artistic, complex graffiti patterns and murals usually don’t affect the value. Depending on the specifics of the case, the criminal charges will drop but the artist may be ordered to remove the graffiti or to pay for the removal of the art from the façade.