Why hire a criminal lawyer when faced with a criminal damage charge?
Criminal damage in Arizona pertains to destruction or defacement of someone else’s property without permission to the effect of substantially impairing its value. Criminal damage covers posting graffiti, tampering with public utilities, or even destruction of someone’s website.
Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) 13-1602 dictates that a person commits criminal damage in the following cases:
- recklessly defacing or damaging property of another person
- recklessly tampering with property of another person so as to substantially impair its function or value
- recklessly damaging property of a utility
- recklessly parking any vehicle in such a manner as to deprive livestock of access to the only reasonably available water
- recklessly drawing or inscribing a message, slogan, sign, or symbol on any public or private building, structure or surface, except the ground, and that is made without permission of the owner
- intentionally tampering with utility property
This offense may be charged against a person within his/her own property if another person is proven to possess an interest in said property. In Arizona, marriage often entails community property which means both parties hold ownership of a house or building. Because of this, domestic violence, assault and even drug charges are often accompanied by criminal damage charges.
Criminal damage may be charged as either a non-dangerous felony or a misdemeanor (with varying levels of offense) based on the value of damage caused.
- Damage valued at $10,000 or more / Reckless damage of public utilities valued $5,000 or more
Class 4 felony, sanctioned with the presumptive sentence of 2.5 years of jailtime for first- and second-time (category 1) offenders, 4.5 years for third-time (category 2) offenders, and 10 years for fourth-time or repeat (category 3) offenders.
- Damage valued $2,000-$9,999
Class 5 felony, sanctioned with the presumptive sentence of 1.5 years of jailtime for first-time and category 1 offenders, 2.25 years for category 2 offenders, and 5 years for category 3 offenders.
- Damage valued $1,000-$1,999
Class 6 felony, sanctioned with the presumptive sentence of 1 year of jailtime for first-time and category 1 offenders, 1.75 years for category 2 offenders, and 3.75 years for category 3 offenders.
- Damage valued $250-$999
Class 1 misdemeanor, sanctioned with up to 6 months of jailtime.
- Damage valued less than $250
Class 2 misdemeanor, sanctioned with up to 4 months of jailtime.
These sanctions are often accompanied by fines (called restitution) of up to $150,000, plus a percentage of surcharges depending on the gravity of the offense. Offenders are also charged with probation (apart from jailtime) and court-mandated counselling. Furthermore, a criminal damage case may be raised to aggravated criminal damage depending on the circumstances with which it was committed.
Aggravated criminal damage is described by ARS 13-1604 as reckless defacement of property or utility without the permission of the owner. It is met with heavier sanctions appropriate to a felony depending on the nature of offense and the aggravating circumstances.
The following defense cases are used to stand up to prosecution against criminal damage.
- Assertion of false identity or false accusation
This involves the introduction of an alibi which proves that the defendant did not commit the charges against him/her.
- Proving the lack of intention
Since a criminal damage offender need only be proved reckless in his/her actions to be charged guilty, proving that the offender did not intend to commit these charges will dismiss or at least soften the sanctions against him/her.
- Challenging the amount of damage
The value of a damaged property may be determined based on the amount needed for full repair and not the actual property itself. Proving that the purported damage is less than the charges may be grounds for lightening the sanction.
If criminal damage is done in the act of self-defense, this charge may be dismissed altogether.
Any criminal damage charge may be reduced based on mitigating factors which need to be proved beyond reasonable doubt in court. Hiring a criminal defense attorney from the Law Offices of Gary L. Rohlwing will help you determine these factors and gain an edge against prosecution. Call (623) 937-1692 for a free initial consultation.