While the Olympics this year had many high points, the final days were surrounded by controversy. At first, it was reported that four American swimmers, including Gold Medalist Ryan Lochte, had been robbed at a gas station in Rio by men posing to be law enforcement. At least, that is what the swimmers told the press.
Later, witness testimony disputed Lochte’s story, saying that not only were the swimmers never robbed, but they were confronted by police because they were vandalizing the gas station while intoxicated. The story has brought great shame to the involved athletes and our country as a whole, and has led top brands to drop their endorsements for Ryan Lochte.
While this story may not seem like a big deal to some, it is a good reminder that property damage and vandalism are viewed as serious crimes. Whether you are in Rio or Chicago, there are serious consequences associated with criminal damage to property.
What Is Criminal Damage to Property?
The acts of vandalism committed by the swimmers allegedly included breaking down a bathroom door, urinating outside of the building, and punching a sign around the station. I say allegedly because they are still disputing that they engaged in some of these acts, and the truth is that we will probably never know exactly what happened that night. The boilerplate version seems to be that the swimmers engaged in some bad behavior while drunk and then tried to cover it up by coming up with a story that minimized their role while greatly embellishing how badly they were treated. And now they’re paying the price.
Under Illinois law, “criminal damage to property” is committed if an individual “knowingly damages any property of another.” If this seems like a very broad definition, it is. While there are many more specific definitions of criminal damage to property (i.e. “knowingly deposits on the land or in the building of another any stink bomb” or “intentionally, without property authorization, opens any fire hydrant”), any sort of damage to another person’s property can be charged as a criminal offense.
Graffiti and similar damages are classified as a separate charge: criminal defacement of property. According to Illinois law, “A person commits criminal defacement of property when the person knowingly damages the property of another by defacing, deforming, or otherwise damaging the property by the use of paint or any other similar substance, or by the use of a writing instrument, etching tool, or any other similar device.”
Penalties for Criminal Damage and Defacement to Property
If you are charged with criminal damage to property, you face serious consequences, including jail time and fines. The consequences and charges are determined by the value of the damage to the property.
Criminal defacement of property has less serious charges and consequences:
- If the damage done is valued at less than $300: Class B misdemeanor, up to 6 months in jail and up to $1,500 in fines.
- If the damage done is valued at more than $300: Class A misdemeanor, up to 1 year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines.
Here are the penalties for criminal damage to property:
- If the damage done is valued at less than $300: Class A misdemeanor, up to 1 year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines.
- If the damage done is valued between $300 and $10,000: Class 4 felony, between 1-3 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
- If the damage done is valued between $10,000 and $100,000: Class 3 felony, between 2-5 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
- If the damage done is valued above $100,000: Class 2 felony, between 3-7 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
Quite a difference. And it gets worse: if the damage was done at a school, place of worship, or to farm equipment, the charge will be bumped up one level higher than it would be based on the value of the damage alone.
For example, if you committed only $250 worth of damage to a general piece of property, you will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. But if you cause $250 of damage to a school or church, you will be charged with a Class 4 felony. And if you cause over $100,000 of damage to a school, place of worship, or to farm equipment, you can be charged with a Class 1 felony.
Bottom line, in order to mount a strong defense and fight your charges, you first need to understand them. Give our office a call to set up a free initial consultation.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.