Criminal damage is how Arizona lawmakers refer to the crime of vandalism. Criminal damage is a serious crime that can result in a felony charge. It is defined in Arizona Revised Statutes Section 13-1602 as many different reckless and intentional actions that damage, deface or otherwise decrease the value of the property of another person. State law describes six main types of criminal damage.

Recklessly Defacing or Damaging the Property of Another Person

The first type of criminal damage is to recklessly deface or damage the property of another person. The definition of “recklessness” in Arizona is to engage in an action or behavior despite a known substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm to others connected to the act. It describes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable and prudent person would exhibit in the same or similar circumstances. 

All types of criminal damage except one involve recklessness. Defacing or damaging property is one of the most common types of reckless vandalism crimes in Arizona. It can refer to almost any type of action that causes property damage, such as recklessly crashing a car into someone’s home or striking a mailbox with a baseball bat.

Recklessly Tampering With the Property of Another Person

Tampering with the property of another person is similar to defacing or damaging it, except that it focuses on alterations made to someone else’s property that substantially impair its function or value. This does not necessarily have to refer to destroying or changing the appearance of a piece of property. For example, it can refer to stealing pieces of a structure, appliance or vehicle – such as copper from an air conditioner – in a way that impairs the item’s function. 

Recklessly Damaging Property of a Utility

This is a less common type of vandalism charge that specifically refers to damage or destruction done to a utility plant, facility, vehicle, or other related structure or property. Utilities can include sites and equipment used to generate or distribute gas, water, electricity, telephone service, internet and cable.

Recklessly Parking a Vehicle to Block Livestock Access to Water

This is also a relatively uncommon criminal charge in Arizona. It refers to someone recklessly stopping a vehicle in a place and position that cuts off the only access that livestock – such as horses, sheep or cattle – have to reasonably available water.

Recklessly Drawing or Inscribing on Private or Public Property

“Drawing or inscribing a message, slogan, sign or symbol” under Arizona law often refers to spray-painting, graffitiing or painting a mural on someone’s property without that person’s permission. It can refer to anything drawn or painted on a public or private structure, building or surface (other than on the ground). This specific type of criminal damage crime is more often charged as a misdemeanor than a felony.

Intentionally Tampering With Utility Property

The sixth and final type of criminal damage is, “intentionally tampering with utility property.” This is the only type that involves a defendant’s intent. It can refer to knowingly or maliciously tampering with, damaging or destroying a utility, such as for the purpose of disrupting utility services to one or more individuals.

What Are the Penalties for Criminal Damage in Arizona?

Criminal damage is charged as a class 2 misdemeanor if the damaged property is worth less than $250, or a class 1 misdemeanor if it is worth $250 to $1,000. However, it is a felony crime if the property is worth $1,000 or more. Vandalism can increase all the way up to a class 3 felony for aggravated criminal damage, such as desecrating or destroying a church, school or burial ground. A vandalism defense lawyer in Phoenix can help you understand the charges you’re facing and develop a strategy on your behalf.

A criminal damage conviction can lead to $750 to $2,500 or more in fines, in addition to 4 months to 3.75 years in jail or prison. Other potential penalties include restitution for the victim, probation, mandatory community service, and a juvenile diversion program or detention for underage offenders.

If you are facing a criminal damage charge of any kind in Arizona, take it seriously and contact AZ Defenders for advice about what to do next.

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