Vandalism is a crime that is defined a bit differently among the 50 states, hundreds of counties, and thousands of communities in the United States, and by federal statute. It can be generally described as the malicious or willful destruction or disfigurement of public or private property that doesn't belong to the vandal, without the consent of the property's owner. It's a crime, not a harmless prank. Vandalism costs millions of dollars worth of taxpayer money to counteract.

Significant Consequences

Vandalism may be thought of as a minor crime by some people, with a "boys will be boys" attitude, but they may be unaware that vandalism offenses are often punishable as misdemeanors or even felonies, with strict consequences such as:

  • Fines
  • Mandatory community service
  • Incarceration (jail time)

Penalty Enhancement

Additional factors can make the punishment for vandalism more severe (this is sometimes called "penalty enhancement"). For instance, in 1998 California enacted a statewide law that makes vandalism done because of a person's race, religion, sexual orientation, color, ancestry, disability, or national origin punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Types of Vandalism

Vandalism can take many forms, including:

  • Broken windows
  • Graffiti, from insignificant scribbles to huge paintings on buildings, trains, and buses
  • Theft of property
  • Arson
  • Posting leaflets and handbills
  • Damage to mailboxes
  • Destruction of playground equipment, library books, campground or beach facilities
  • Defacing gravestones
  • Egging or toilet papering property
  • Littering

Vandalism of Federal Property

The federal (national) government takes an especially dim view of vandalism. Although some teens think that trashing a public mailbox is funny, they're probably not aware that such a mailbox is federal property, and that the potential punishment for the destruction of federal property is rather severe. Vandalism at national parks, monuments, historic sites, military installations, and post offices will not be dealt with lightly by federal prosecutors.

Contact a Lawyer about Vandalism Charges

If your child has been charged with vandalism, or if you are accused of committing vandalism, it's a good idea to consult a criminal defense attorney. Contact a criminal lawyer in your area today to discuss your case and your options.

Find a Lawyer Now

Search for a Criminal Law lawyer in your state or province by using the forms to the right.