Vandalism Law & Legal Definition


Vandalism is typically defined as when a person knowingly causes serious physical damage to a structure or its contents. Vandalism is governed by state statutes, which vary by state. Some states have separate statutes that deal specifically with vandalism to certain property, such as autos, cemeteries, or school property. Statutes typically provide for penalties based upon the value of the property damage. Local laws should be consulted for specific requirements in your area.

The following is an example of a state statute dealing with vandalism:

A) No person shall knowingly cause serious physical harm to an occupied structure or any of its contents.

(B) (1) No person shall knowingly cause physical harm to property that is owned or possessed by another, when either of the following applies:

(a) The property is used by its owner or possessor in the owner's or possessor's profession, business, trade, or occupation, and the value of the property or the amount of physical harm involved is five hundred dollars or more;

(b) Regardless of the value of the property or the amount of damage done, the property or its equivalent is necessary in order for its owner or possessor to engage in the owner's or possessor's profession, business, trade, or occupation.

(2) No person shall knowingly cause serious physical harm to property that is owned, leased, or controlled by a governmental entity. A governmental entity includes, but is not limited to, the state or a political subdivision of the state, a school district, the board of trustees of a public library or public university, or any other body corporate and politic responsible for governmental activities only in geographical areas smaller than that of the state.

(C) No person, without privilege to do so, shall knowingly cause serious physical harm to any tomb, monument, gravestone, or other similar structure that is used as a memorial for the dead; to any fence, railing, curb, or other property that is used to protect, enclose, or ornament any cemetery; or to a cemetery.

(D) No person, without privilege to do so, shall knowingly cause physical harm to a place of burial by breaking and entering into a tomb, crypt, casket, or other structure that is used as a memorial for the dead or as an enclosure for the dead.

(E) Whoever violates this section is guilty of vandalism. Except as otherwise provided in this division, vandalism is a felony of the fifth degree that is punishable by a fine of up to two thousand five hundred dollars in addition to the penalties specified for a felony of the fifth degree in sections 2929.11 to 2929.18 of the Revised Code. If the value of the property or the amount of physical harm involved is five thousand dollars or more but less than one hundred thousand dollars, vandalism is a felony of the fourth degree. If the value of the property or the amount of physical harm involved is one hundred thousand dollars or more, vandalism is a felony of the third degree.

(F) For purposes of this section:

(1) "Cemetery" means any place of burial and includes burial sites that contain American Indian burial objects placed with or containing American Indian human remains.

(2) "Serious physical harm" means physical harm to property that results in loss to the value of the property of five hundred dollars or more.