Criminal Damage to Property Law and Legal Definition

Criminal damage to property encompasses the crimes of criminal mischief, criminal tampering, criminal use and possession of noxious substance, defacement, desecration, and criminal littering. A person commits the crime of criminal mischief in the first degree if, with intent to damage property, and having no right to do so or any reasonable ground to believe that he or she has such a right, he or she inflicts damages to property of a certain dollar amount. Dollar amounts and classifications vary by state. Crimnial tampering is usally defined as when a person, having no right to do so or any reasonable ground to believe that he has such a right, he intentionally causes substantial interruption or impairment of a service rendered to the public by a utility. Tampering involves an improper interference, meddling with or an unwarranted alteration in the condition of property of another.

A person commits the crime of criminal use of a noxious substance if he knowingly deposits on the land or in the building or vehicle of another, without his consent, any stink bomb or device, irritant or offensive-smelling substance, with the intent to interfere with another's use of the land, building or vehicle.

Any person who willfully or maliciously injures, defaces, removes or destroys any tomb, monument, gravestone or other memorial of the dead, or any fence or any inclosure about any tomb, monument, gravestone or memorial, or who willfully and wrongfully destroys, removes, cuts, breaks or injures any tree, shrub, plant, flower, decoration, or other real or personal property within any cemetery or graveyard may be found guily of criminal defacement or desecration. Laws vary by state, so local law should be consulted to determine the applicable law in your area.

For example, the following is an example of a Georgia statute involving criminal damage:

"(a) A person commits the offense of criminal damage to property in the first degree when he:

  1. Knowingly and without authority interferes with any property in a manner so as to endanger human life; or
  2. Knowingly and without authority and by force or violence interferes with the operation of any system of public communication, public transportation, sewerage, drainage, water supply, gas, power, or other public utility service or with any constituent property thereof.

(b) A person convicted of the offense of criminal damage to property in the first degree shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years. 16-7-23.

(a) A person commits the offense of criminal damage to property in the second degree when he:

  1. Intentionally damages any property of another person without his consent and the damage thereto exceeds $500.00;
  2. Recklessly or intentionally, by means of fire or explosive, damages property of another person; or
  3. With intent to damage, starts a fire on the land of another without his consent.

(b) A person convicted of the offense of criminal damage to property in the second degree shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years."