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Vandalism Definition

Vandalism occurs when an individual decides to destroy or deface another's property. Graffiti is the most common kind of vandalism and occurs when an individual, paints, writes or draws on a building or other structure. Graffiti is a crime that is commonly associated with gang affiliations or organized crime networks.

Different Kinds of Vandalism Behaviors

  • Car vandalism.
  • Spray painting the side of a building or tagging a sign.
  • Carving initials into a picnic table at a park or a wooden bench in a public place.
  • Breaking windows in a building.
  • Drawing or carving letters or shapes into a mailbox.
  • Egging a car or house.
  • Throwing toilet paper on a house.
  • Damaging or defacing street signs.

How is Auto Vandalism Different?

Auto vandalism includes different behaviors such as keying the paint, breaking the car's windows, or slashing the tires. Even something as simple as putting an unwanted sticker or paper on another's car can be vandalism. Any conduct that is not authorized by the car's owner that damages or alters the appearance of a vehicle can be a vandalism charge.

What Are the Different Kinds of Charges for Vandalism?

What is interesting about vandalism is that the individual who is responsible for the crime does not have to be caught in the act. What this means is that even if the individual is apprehended the morning after, they can still be charged if it can be proven that they are responsible. The system is designed this way due to the frequency of vandalism-related offenses to occur later in the evening when fewer people are outside.

For individuals that have had their property vandalized, it is essential to realize that your insurance may not cover the repairs. The best scenario would be catching the individual responsible and having a fee charged to them. If that is not possible, then you will need to have homeowners insurance or auto insurance that is capable of covering the amount of money required to make repairs.

Is Vandalism Charged as a Felony or a Misdemeanor?

Usually, vandalism is a misdemeanor charge. There are exceptions to this in more extreme cases. For example, if an individual, scratches a sign and then burns down a field nearby, then the charges would become more severe than just a misdemeanor offense. For vandalism charges, the typical punishment involves small fines and time spent at the county jail. At times, courts will also order the individual to make repairs on what they vandalized or repaying the owner for the damaged property.

How Much Does Vandalism Cost?

Surprisingly, vandalism is one of the costliest crimes within the United States each year for property owners. Even though vandalism is usually not paired with violence, it still causes property owners great inconvenience and at times, expense. Depending on the state where the vandalism takes place, there will be specific statutes to determine how high fines will be. Recently, states have made an effort to make fines higher in order to discourage individuals from vandalizing the property of another person. The judge will allocate the punishment of the individual depending on their criminal history, the severity of the vandalism, and the amount of money in damages that the vandalism caused to the property owners.

Vandalism is a crime that is a waste to both criminals and property owners. Be sure to properly educate your children on the undesirable consequences of vandalism so that these smaller, inconvenient, and costly crimes can be avoided in the long-term. If you are being charged with vandalism, it is wise to familiarize yourself with your state's statutes so that you are aware of what you may be responsible for financially for a general fine and any damages you owe to the property owner whose property you vandalized. 

Vandalism Glossary Definition

Vandalism occurs when an individual intentionally draws on or disfigures a piece of public property. The most common type of vandalism that is regularly seen is graffiti. Other types of common vandalism offenses are scratching off the paint from a car, kicking another person's property, or altering the message of street signs. Vandalism is usually charged as a misdemeanor unless it is paired with a more severe offense.