Vandalism is a property crime that can result in significant punishment under North Carolina law. Even if the property damage is minimal, you could be facing time in jail. On top of that, you may have to pay a fine, perform community service, and have a mark on your record that will make it difficult to obtain employment, housing, and other opportunities.
Your freedom hinges on having an experienced criminal defense attorney. Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, has handled numerous vandalism and property damage cases that have resulted in favorable outcomes for our clients. We will go to work and put forth an aggressive defense on your behalf.
Common Vandalism And Property Damage Charges
Vandalism and property damage are similar crimes under North Carolina’s statutes. All of the following actions could result in criminal charges being filed against you:
Graffiti vandalism. When people imagine vandalism, they often think of someone spraying graffiti on property. This crime covers unlawful scribbling, writing, marking, spray painting, defacing, or besmearing the walls of any real property, public or private. It also covers cemetery tombstones, monuments, statues, and public buildings.
This is usually charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor with a $500 fine and 24 hours of community service. However, you could be charged with a Class H felony and face jail time if you’ve had two or more prior convictions.
Injury to real property. This includes willful and wanton damage, injury, or destruction of someone’s real property. “Real property” is land or anything built on or attached to it. That includes buildings, fences, gates, and other permanent fixtures. This crime is charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor, with a possible 12-day sentence and fine.
Injury to personal property. You can be charged for this crime for willful and wanton injury to personal property. Personal property is everything that isn’t real property, or attached to land. This could include a car, a cell phone, and numerous other items belonging to someone.
How the defendant is charged depends on the value of the property damaged. If it’s $200 or less, you will be facing a Class 2 misdemeanor, a fine of $1,000, and up to 60 days in jail. But if the value of the property is in excess of $200, the crime will be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Injury to public buildings. This crime covers an array of behaviors involving public buildings and facilities, including vandalism and disorderly conduct. It covers crimes done to or near government buildings, public recreation facilities, and events of a public nature. You could face a Class 2 misdemeanor and 30 days to 6 months in jail.
Other charges involve more obscure forms of vandalism or property damage, such as:
- Vandalism of a cave
- Desecrating graves or human remains
- Injury to trees or crops
- Injury to bridges
- Interfering with gas and other public utility meters
Possible Defenses To Vandalism And Property Damage Charges
Every vandalism and property damage case is different, and it’s important that you be upfront with your lawyer about all details surrounding the alleged incident. You may be able to use one of the following defenses, among others:
Lack of intent. Vandalism charges require proof of intent to damage or destroy property. While it would be difficult to argue lack of intent for something like spray painting graffiti, other forms of vandalism are less clear cut. For instance, scratching up someone’s car can happen inadvertently, by leaning against or walking past it.
Mistaken identity. You may have been falsely identified as the individual who committed the act in question. The defense of mistaken identity is best helped if you have an alibi for where you were when the act allegedly occurred. For example, if you have a dated receipt from a store that was nowhere near the damaged property, it could prove you weren’t present.
Consent from the property owner. This defense works for crimes committed against real or personal property. If you had the owner’s consent, for instance, to renovate or tear down part of a building, you can’t be charged with willful and wanton injury to it.
Insufficient evidence. The prosecution has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and that’s not an easy standard to meet. We understand North Carolina’s rules of evidence and the burden to which the prosecution is held. We challenge evidence that is illegally obtained or doesn’t meet the requirements to be introduced in court.
How We Can Help
Our firm will review the charges and evidence against you and let you know the best way forward. That may include fighting the vandalism or property damage charges in court or arguing for them to be reduced. Depending on the strength of the prosecution’s case, we may demand that the charges be dismissed altogether.
In some cases, the property owner will accept payment of restitution in exchange for dropping the charges. Owners often prefer this to having the defendant convicted and jailed, because that makes it much harder to get the money needed to clean up or repair the damage. We work hard to settle cases outside of court where the facts make this the best option.
Having a criminal record, especially if you are young, can cause problems long after a conviction. It could jeopardize your chances of going to college or make it harder to get a job. If you already have a career, a criminal conviction can risk your job being terminated. We will do what we can to keep a conviction off your record and avoid these consequences down the road.
Contact Our Carteret County Vandalism Attorney
The sooner you retain legal counsel after being charged with a crime, the better. The Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, will go over your options and fight for the best possible results in court. Put our experience to the test and give us a call today.