Criminal Damage Attorney Fighting for Clients Charged in Mesa, Arizona
Criminal damage is a serious offense often charged in combination with other offenses such as theft or burglary and may result in jail time. Our firm has assisted many clients dealing with a similar situation, and we understand that it may be overwhelming to try and figure out what will happen next if you have been arrested for criminal damage. Working with a criminal damage attorney is essential in avoiding harsher penalties and getting a more favorable outcome. Here are a few important facts about criminal damage laws in Arizona.
What Is Considered Criminal Damage in Arizona?
Criminal damage is a crime against someone else’s property or against public property. A person commits criminal damage by deliberately and recklessly defacing or damaging property; by tampering with someone else’s property with the purpose of impairing its function or value; and by drawing, writing, or adding graffiti on any public or private property without permission.
In addition, it is also criminal damage to tamper with, damage, or destroy utility property. It is also criminal damage to use a vehicle in a way as to deprive livestock of access to the only reasonable available water source. This type of crime almost always involves a degree of recklessness from the offender, meaning the person committing the crime was fully aware of the risks and circumstances that may result from their actions and chose to act anyway.
Can Criminal Damage Be Considered a Felony in Arizona?
Arizona classifies criminal damage offenses as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the severity of the crime and on the dollar value of the property damaged. The value of the property is calculated by determining the cost of labor, material, and equipment to repair the damage. If the property damaged was valued at less than $250, the crime is considered a Class 2 misdemeanor. If the property is valued between $250 and $1000, the crime is a Class 1 Misdemeanor.
However, if a person commits criminal damage of property valued at over $1000, he or she will likely be facing felony charges which can get progressively more serious depending on the property value. More than $10,000.00 in damages constitutes a Class 4 felony, and $5000 or more of damages to a utility is not only a Class 4 felony but is also considered aggravated criminal damage. A person can also commit aggravated criminal damage if the property damaged was a school building, educational facility, cemetery, mortuary, or used for religious or worship purposes; or if a construction, utility, or agricultural site is damaged with the purpose of taking metals and selling them.
What Are the Penalties for Criminal Damage?
Penalties get more severe depending on the value of the property damage, and as mentioned above, certain types of property damage will likely result in a Class 4 felony (aggravated criminal damage) regardless of the property value. If convicted of a misdemeanor, an offender can expect to spend 4 to 6 months in jail, pay a fine and if applicable, pay restitution to the victim, in addition to possible probation time.
If convicted of a felony, a person can face anywhere from probation to 8 years in prison, since felony criminal damage charges can range from a class 6 felony (less serious) all the way to a Class 3 felony (more serious). There may be additional jail time and fines for those with one or two previous felony convictions, resulting in as much as 25 years in prison in certain cases.
What Are Possible Defense Strategies for a Criminal Damage Charge?
It is common practice for the prosecution to try and bring the most severe criminal damage charges possible for a case; however, there are a few factors that they must prove in order to convict someone of criminal damage — and a well-versed attorney can use the same factors as an opportunity to de-escalate charges or as an opportunity to get the case dismissed when possible.
First, a lawyer helping clients with a criminal defense case can argue that the charges are fabricated or exaggerated by the victim (who in some cases may be intoxicated or simply determined to make false accusations on purpose). Second, the attorney can demonstrate that the defendant lacked criminal intent and that the damages were a result of an accident or negligent action (and thus not a criminal act). Additionally, the attorney can attack the prosecution’s method for calculating the property value and present an alternative, more reasonable valuation method. This is important because the dollar value of the property damaged is used to determine the severity of the charges and whether you will be dealing with a felony or a misdemeanor charge.
As you can see, there are many different defense strategies a criminal damage lawyer can use to convince a judge to reduce felonious charges to a misdemeanor or drop the case altogether. Cases can be dropped if, for example, all the evidence produced by the prosecution is deemed to be inadmissible after the defense attorney demonstrated that the evidence was a result of an illegal search and seizure and that your constitutional rights were not respected. Every case is different and may result in different outcomes — but if you have been arrested and charged with criminal damage, there is still time to fight back and avoid a larger conviction. Reach out to our Mesa office at (480) 378-9000 and request a confidential case analysis to see how we can help you.