What Is Vandalism?
Vandalism is when an individual knowingly destroys, defaces, alters, or damages public or private property. Most cases of vandalism are harmless pranks or mistakes and result in very minimal damage; however, that won’t stop prosecutors from charging you with an offense.
Common examples of vandalism include:
- Spray painting/graffiti
- Trash dumping
- Smashing lights
- Removing/bending signage
- Breaking windows
- Egging a car, house, or other property
- Keying (or scratching) paint off a car
- Slashing tires
If you are facing vandalism or criminal mischief charges, the Gasper Law Group is here to help. Our criminal defense attorneys can work to resolve the matter in a way that is most beneficial for you. We represent clients in El Paso County, Teller County, Pueblo County, Douglas County, Fremont County, and most of southern Colorado. Contact us immediately for a free initial consultation.
Vandalism Charges & Punishment
Even if the defendant co-owns the property that was damaged, they can still face charges, as well as if the defendant fully owns the property but another individual has a possessory or proprietary interest. Vandalism does not require you to get “caught in the act.” Charges can arise after the fact if there are witnesses, surveillance footage, or other evidence that might implicate you.
In Colorado, vandalism is generally referred to as criminal mischief, which is classified into two categories; misdemeanors and felonies. Charges can depend on various factors, such as if you are a repeat offender, the value of the property damaged, and the extent of the damage.
The following is the guideline for vandalism and criminal mischief penalties in Colorado:
- Under $300 – Class 3 misdemeanor; up to 6 months imprisonment; and/or $50-$750 in fines
- $300-$750 – Class 2 misdemeanor; 3-12 months imprisonment; and/or $250-$1,000 in fines
- $750-$1,000 – Class 1 misdemeanor; 6-18 months imprisonment; and/or $500-$5,000 in fines
- $1,000-$5,000 – Class 6 felony; 12-18 months imprisonment; and/or $1,000-$100,000 in fines
- $5,000-$20,000 – Class 5 felony; 1-3 years imprisonment; and/or $1,000-$100,000 in fines
- $20,000-$100,000 – Class 4 felony; 2-6 years imprisonment; and/or $2,000-$500,000 in fines
- $100,000-$1,000,000 – Class 3 felony; 4-12 years imprisonment; and/or $3,000-$750,000 in fines
- Over $1,000,000 – Class 2 felony; 8-24 years imprisonment; and/or $5,000-$1,000,000 in fines
In addition to jail time and hefty fines, you may have to pay restitution for the property damage. Hiring an experienced vandalism defense lawyer in the early stages of your case can help protect your future and increase your chances of a favorable outcome.
Juvenile Vandalism Punishment
Minors charged with vandalism may face penalties geared toward rehabilitation rather than punishment. Instead of being sentenced to jail and paying a fine, juveniles convicted of vandalism are often sanctioned with a mix of:
- Mandatory classes
- Community service
However, if a minor is charged with vandalism, it is not always a lighter sentence or handled through the Colorado juvenile justice system. Many juveniles are charged as adults and sentenced to harsher punishments. No matter the situation, having an attorney with specific experience handling juvenile criminal defense cases is imperative.
How Our Vandalism Lawyers Can Help You
Prosecutors are some of the most powerful officials in the American criminal justice system, which is why you need a competent attorney by your side. If you have been charged with criminal mischief, the seasoned vandalism lawyers at the Gasper Law Group have the skills and resources to defend you effectively. We can investigate on your behalf and fight to protect your rights.
Depending on the facts of your case, your vandalism defense may aim for an acquittal by disproving your prosecutor’s claims. Or it may involve circumstances that could lessen the penalties, such as an accident or self-defense.
Common legal defenses to a vandalism charge in Colorado include:
Mistaken identity – Our criminal mischief lawyers use this legal defense in various cases. For example, you might have been at the wrong place at the wrong time, which led to being falsely accused of vandalism. Sometimes the property owner did not see the individual who committed the offenses, or perhaps they only got a quick glimpse of the individual. If you matched the culprit’s description and were nearby at the time of the crime, you could face charges even though you aren’t guilty. In some cases, a property owner might have had a personal vendetta against you, which led to them accusing you of criminal mischief.
The property owner consented to your actions – This legal defense is frequently used in vandalism cases involving graffiti. Our criminal defense attorneys could argue that you cannot be liable for vandalism if the owner consented to the damage.
The damage was caused by an accident – We use this legal defense in situations involving a wide range of accidental damage. Our lawyers could argue that you cannot be liable for vandalism if you acted negligently or even recklessly because vandalism has to be done knowingly.
Self-defense – You may have had to commit criminal mischief to protect yourself, such as you were assaulted and your only defense was to throw something at your attacker. If you broke or damaged property in the process, our attorneys could argue that you did so in self-defense and should not be charged with vandalism.
Choice of evils – This legal defense is frequently used in cases involving minors. For example, if you were pressured and had to choose between vandalizing someone’s property or committing a different crime, you may have decided that vandalism was the lesser of two evils. Our criminal defense lawyers could argue that you made the best decision based on the circumstances.
Involuntary intoxication – This is another defense used in situations involving peer pressure. If an individual or group threatened you to the point where you were forced to become intoxicated, our vandalism attorneys could argue that you shouldn’t be punished for your actions while impaired.
The value is not worth as much as the prosecutor is claiming – The penalties of a vandalism conviction depend on the property’s value. Prosecuting attorneys may use inflated figures to claim you caused more damage than you did in an attempt to seek a higher charge. Our criminal defense lawyers work to collect accurate evidence that demonstrates the true value of the damage. We could argue that the property was not worth as much as the prosecutor claims, which can help keep you from facing a higher charge than necessary.
Contact Our Colorado Springs Vandalism Attorneys
If you have been charged with vandalism or criminal mischief, you should speak to one of our knowledgeable lawyers as soon as possible. The attorneys at the Gasper Law Group do everything we can to help our clients secure the best possible outcome. Contact us today for a free initial consultation where we will discuss the facts of your case and explain your legal rights.