If police allege you vandalized someone else’s property, it may be difficult to clear your name. In Pennsylvania, the severity of a vandalism charge can vary from a summary offense to a felony. Depending on the facts of your case and the value of the defaced property, you could be looking at jail time or probation if convicted.
A vandalism offense is not something to take lightly. While many do not view it as a serious crime, there is no reason you have to sit back and accept these accusations. A vandalism lawyer in Montgomery County can help you fight the charges against you. The legal team at the McKenzie Law Firm, P.C., will investigate the incident and use the most appropriate legal strategies to get the best possible outcome in your case. Call us today at 610-680-7842 for your free initial consultation.
What Do I Need to Know About Vandalism and Criminal Mischief?
In Pennsylvania, vandalism generally falls under the umbrella of criminal mischief. These offenses occur when someone knowingly defaces, damages, or destroys someone else’s property. To obtain a conviction for this, a prosecutor must show:
- The person intentionally damaged property;
- They caused damage to the property, reducing its value in some way; and
- The property belonged to someone else.
Only if prosecutors can prove all three of these elements can they win a conviction against you for vandalism or criminal mischief. Vandalism can include almost any activity that defaces or damages something that belongs to someone else. Graffiti is a common example. Other examples might include:
- Carving your name or other words into a park bench, tree, or table in a public place;
- Writing on a bathroom wall with a marker;
- Intentionally scraping someone’s car with a key;
- Puncturing someone else’s tires;
- Tagging someone’s fence with spray paint;
- Breaking windows in an abandoned building;
- Damaging stones in a cemetery; and
- Putting unwanted stickers on someone else’s car.
Our attorneys can help you if you are facing these charges. If your child or teen is facing criminal mischief charges after an act of vandalism, our juvenile criminal defense team can help.
What Are the Consequences of a Vandalism Conviction?
Most vandalism-related crimes are misdemeanors. These generally call for relatively minor penalties if convicted. If the criminal mischief causes significant damage to valuable property, however, you could face felony charges. A felony is a serious crime that may require spending time in jail.
In general, the consequences associated with a criminal mischief case depend heavily on the severity of the offense, your criminal history, and the details of your case. In the most minor of incidents, you face summary offense charges. This type of minor offense can call for a short stay in jail, but a fine, community service, and a short period of probation are more common.
When an action causes significant damage to valuable property—$5,000 or more—the prosecutor will likely charge you with a third-degree felony. You may also face this type of charge if your criminal mischief interrupts public transportation, public utility service, or other similar services. For example, slashing the tires of a fleet of municipal buses might call for this type of charge. A third-degree felony conviction could result in up to seven years in prison and significant fines. Probation is also possible, but it is important to recognize the serious nature of a felony conviction.
The Role of a Vandalism Lawyer in Montgomery County
A Montgomery County vandalism conviction can affect your life in a number of ways. If you receive a conviction of a more serious offense or you have a previous record, you might spend time in jail. Probation can limit your ability to travel, and a probation violation can have serious legal consequences. Simply having the conviction on your record can make it harder to get a new job or even rent an apartment.
There is no one-size-fits-all defense against criminal mischief charges. When you enlist our help on your case, we go to work investigating the situation that led to your arrest. We will look into what happened, why it happened, and how police handled it. Only once we have this information can we develop a criminal defense strategy that addresses the challenges in your case. We have a variety of ways we can help our clients get the best possible outcome available.
In some cases, we can uncover evidence that conclusively proves you could not have committed the crime. If it is compelling enough, the prosecution could drop their charges against you.
Occasionally, we uncover evidence the police officers acted inappropriately, collecting evidence without a search warrant or otherwise violating your rights. This could be grounds for the judge to disallow the evidence against you.
We may be able to counter the charges by showing you had permission from the owner of the property to do what you were doing, or that you did not know you were causing permanent damage.
Sometimes we can convince prosecutors that the damage to the item was not as serious as they claim. Because the cost of the property damage will play a significant role in your case, we may be able to convince them to reduce the charges against you.
Talk to a Vandalism Lawyer in Montgomery County About Your Case.
Attorney David C. McKenzie III can help you fight the charges against you, putting a strong defense strategy in place that allows you to walk away with as little impact on your future as possible. Vandalism is not always the minor crime many believe it to be. You might have to face serious consequences if you do not have a defense that can prevent this.
The McKenzie Law Firm, P.C., will work to win a “not guilty” verdict, have the charges against you dropped, or convince the prosecutors to reduce the severity of the charges you face to minimize your potential penalties.
Call our Montgomery County office today at 610-680-7842 and let us review your case for free.