Vandalism is the intentional defacing or destruction or the property of another. In New York, vandalizing property through destruction, defacement, tagging, graffiti or other means can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Meaning that it is always crime, but depending on the circumstances, it can be charged as a serious crime carrying a harsh prison sentence and significant fines. The Law Offices of Victor Knapp understands how serious this charge can be and defend the reputation and freedom of those charged with this crime.
How is Vandalism Defined Under New York Law?
In New York the crime of vandalism is subsumed under the criminal mischief and criminal tampering laws. Additionally, New York City along with other jurisdictions have local statutes which prohibit graffiti. New York state law defines criminal mischief in 4 degrees which are:
- Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree – This is the least serious criminal mischief offense, but as a Class A misdemeanor a one year jail sentence and significant fines can be imposed. Criminal Mischief in the Fourth degree requires an individual to knowingly destroy property belonging to another person worth no more than $250.
- Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree – For knowing destruction of property valued between $250 and $1,500 Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree can be charged. It is a Class E felony meaning that upon conviction a 4 year prison sentence and significant fines can be imposed.
- Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree – If the damage caused is greater than $1,500 then the crime may be charged in the second degree. It is a Class D felony carrying a penalty of up to 7 years in prison and significant fines.
- Criminal Mischief in the First Degree – If the act of vandalism was caused by explosives, then the crime may be charged as a Class B felony. Aside from the significant fines that may be imposed, a prison sentence of up to 25 years can also be ordered.
If you do not destroy the property of another but you alter it, or commit certain acts that disrupt utility service you can be charged with criminal tampering. Criminal tampering charges range from the Third Degree, which is a Class B misdemeanor, to the First Degree which is charged as a Class D felony. Penalties range from 90 days in jail and fines to a prison sentence of up to 7 years.
New York City Graffiti Laws
New York City has extremely harsh laws against graffiti. Former Mayor Giuliani’s acceptance of the “broken windows theory” of crime prevention lead to the creation of the Anti-Graffiti Task Force and banned the sale of aerosol spray paint to youths under the age of 18. Further, laws requiring spray paint to be kept by merchants under lock and key were also passed. Finally, under the same Title 10-117, it is illegal to even carry an aerosol spray paint if a police officer believes that you are carrying it with “intent to violate the current laws in place.” The Citywide Vandal Task Force is particularly relentless in pursing those suspected of graffiti. Unfortunately if you are associated with a particular tag or sign, the Task Force has been known to arrest and charge you for each and every tag, even if the other tags were made by “copycat” artists. If you are facing multiple vandalism charges, an experienced lawyer can potentially make the difference and prevent you from serving a lengthy prison sentence.
The Law Offices of Victor Knapp defends the freedom of those charged with criminal mischief and graffiti offenses. To speak to an experienced vandalism attorney contact Victor Knapp, Esq. today by calling 718.263.9000 or through this online form.