Vandalism, or defacement of property, is a crime in Illinois, whether or not it is to public or private property. Vandalism is often referred to as graffiti or criminal damage. So, if you are someone who thinks graffiti is harmless, you are mistaken -- you can be prosecuted for it. This is important because some people post on social media their “artwork,” which by law is graffiti. If the police are made aware of it, you could find them at your door step to make an arrest.
If you have been arrested for a property crime like vandalism in the greater Chicago metro area, the State will pursue the case aggressively even if you think it's not a big deal. Contact an experienced property crime defense attorney at Dolci & Weiland today.
How does Illinois Define the Crime of Vandalism?
Vandalism can refer to many different property crimes but typically a case of vandalism is filed under the criminal damage to property statute found at 720 ILCS 5/21-1. According to the statute, a persons commits criminal damage to property when he or she:
(1) knowingly damages any property of another;
(2) recklessly by means of fire or explosive damages property of another;
(3) knowingly starts a fire on the land of another;
(4) knowingly injures a domestic animal of another without his or her consent;
(5) knowingly deposits on the land or in the building of another any stink bomb or any offensive smelling compound and thereby intends to interfere with the use by another of the land or building;
(6) knowingly damages any property ... with intent to defraud an insurer;
(7) knowingly shoots a firearm at any portion of a railroad train;
(8) knowingly, without proper authorization, cuts, injures, damages, defaces, destroys, or tampers with any fire hydrant or any public or private fire fighting equipment, or any apparatus appertaining to fire fighting equipment; or
(9) intentionally, without proper authorization, opens any fire hydrant.
To prove a crime of vandalism, the prosecutor must prove the following:
- knowingly damaged another person or entity's property;
- recklessly damaged another person or entity's property by fire or explosion;
- knowingly started a fire on someone else's property;
- knowingly injured someone else's pet; or
- knowingly damaged (e.g., via arson) your own property to collect on an insurance policy.
In all these circumstances, your state of mind matters and can make the difference between a conviction or not. You must have intentionally done the act or knew what you were doing.
What are the Consequences of a Vandalism Conviction in Illinois?
- Any criminal history you may have;
- The nature of the criminal act;
- the owner of the property (e.g., your own property versus private citizen or entity versus government)
- The value of the vandalized property;
- The use or lack of violence or threat of violence during the commission of vandalism; and
- An injury or fatality caused by the commission of the crime.
Examples of the various classifications of property damage offenses and the penalties you face are provided below:
- If you knowingly deface a fire hydrant, you face a Class B misdemeanor. A conviction could result in up to six months in the county jail and up to $1,500 in fines.
- If you knowingly start a fire on another person's property, you face a Class A misdemeanor unless the damage is more than $500, in which case you face a Class 4 felony. A Class A misdemeanor could mean up to one year in the county jail and up to $2,500 in fines. A Class 4 felony carries a sentence of between one to three years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
- If you knowingly injury a pet, you face a Class 4 felony, but the fine does not exceed $10,000.
- If you criminally damage property that belongs to the government, you face a Class 3 felony. A Class 3 felony carries a sentence of between two to five years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
Conviction of vandalism can lead to jail or prison, depending on the classification as a misdemeanor or felony. It can also lead to fines, restitution, probation, and other forms of punishment. One significant and often overlooked consequence of a conviction, however, is the social stigma that accompanies a conviction along with difficulties like but not limited to:
- Difficulty finding a job;
- Difficulty obtaining housing;
- Difficulty obtaining a personal, auto, student, or mortgage loan;
- Possibly problems with child custody, especially if any violence was involved; and/or
- Many other collateral consequences, including the loss of your right to vote or own and use a firearm if the conviction is a felony offense.
Are There Any Defenses to an Allegation of Vandalism in the Greater Chicago Metro Area?
You can build a defense against an allegation of vandalism, but you need a strong, aggressive criminal defense attorney to help you do it. You are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and we at Dolci & Weiland will work towards upholding the State and the jury accountable to this principle. We may do so by building a defense specific to the facts and circumstances of your case. This could include:
- arguing that you did not intend or know what would happen;
- highlighting weaknesses in the States case against you;
- identifying any mistakes of facts that may clear your name;
- showing that the land or property damaged was yours and that insurance would not or could not be collected on it.
Contact an Experienced Property Crimes Defense Attorney Today
If you or someone you know has been charged with vandalism or criminal damage to property, contact our office today. We represent clients throughout the greater Chicago metropolitan area, including offices in both DuPage County and Cook County. We will schedule a free consultation to review your case and provide an initial assessment of your best options.