Vandalism: You Break it You Buy it…a Ticket to Jail

The intentional or reckless destruction of private or public property is a crime in the state of Texas. While vandalism may appear to be a relatively minor crime, the available penalties can be quite severe depending on the seriousness of the crime. Among the crimes that may constitute an act of vandalism are the following:

  • Spray painting
  • Graffiti
  • Arson
  • Breaking windows
  • Smashing mailboxes
  • Trespassing
  • Hitting cars or buildings with eggs

Texas Property Crimes

Texas Penal Code § 28.04 outlaws the reckless destruction of public or private property without first obtaining permission from the property owner. Criminal mischief is described in § 28.03 as knowingly and purposefully committing one of the following violations without obtaining prior approval from the property owner:

  • Destroys or damages tangible property
  • Causes loss or significant inconvenience by tampering with someone else’s property
  • Effaces an owner’s tangible property with writings, markings, drawings, slogans or inscriptions

Depending on the nature and scope of the crime, criminal mischief can be charged as a Class A, B or C misdemeanor, state jail felony or a first, second or third degree felony. Graffiti is defined in § 28.08 as knowingly drawing, painting, writing or inscribing property without obtaining permission from the owner. It is illegal to intentionally deface someone’s property with a permanent marker or etching tool. The seriousness of a graffiti charge will depend on the amount of damage that was inflicted.

Intentionally or recklessly using fire to destroy public or private property in any manner constitutes arson. Depending on the scope of the arson crime, Texas Penal Code § 28.02 makes arson punishable as a Class A, B or C misdemeanor, state jail felony or a first, second or third degree felony .

Vandalism Sentences

The following minimum sentences may be imposed for vandalism, but the exact punishment will depend on where the crime was committed, the extent of the damage and the criminal record of the offender. The sentence will be more severe if the offender used a weapon or caused death or bodily injury. The following sentences are available under Texas law:

  • Class C misdemeanor-fine of up to $500
  • Class B misdemeanor-up to six months in jail and a fine of no more than $2,000
  • Class A misdemeanor-up to one year in jail and a fine of no more than $4,000
  • State jail felony-up to two years in jail and a fine of no more than $10,000
  • Third degree felony-up to ten years in prison and a fine of no more than $10,000
  • Second degree felony-up to 20 years in prison and a fine of no more than $10,000
  • First degree felony-up to 99 years or life in prison and a fine of no more than $10,000

If you are charged with vandalism, then your reputation may be badly damaged and you could also be facing some hefty fines. Speak with Matthew Sharp today for a free legal consultation session.  Give him a call at 713-868-6100.

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