An Overview of Vandalism Laws and Sanctions in Arizona

Vandalism or criminal damage as it is legally known consists of damaging or defacing somebody else’s property. In Arizona, vandalism is a criminal offense punishable by law. Detailed vandalism laws and sanctions in Arizona pertaining to criminal damage are featured in Arizona Revised Statutes 13-1602, as well as in section 13-1604 that pertains to aggravated criminal damage.

Legal Provisions

According to ARS 13-1602, criminal damage can be committed in one of the following ways:

  • Defacing or damaging the property of another person
  • Recklessly tampering with property
  • Damaging property of a utility
  • Getting a vehicle parked so that it prevents livestock from access to water
  • Drawing a symbol or inscribing a message on any part of a property without getting consent from the owner
  • Tampering with utility property in an intentional way

Aggravated criminal damage will be a more serious offense. All of the provisions pertaining to this crime are described in ARS 13-1604. Aggravated criminal damage could consist of any of the following:

  • Damaging or defacing buildings, structures, personal property and places of worship in a way that alters the appearance
  • Defacing and damaging property owned by schools and other educational facilities
  • Defacing and damaging cemetery property, mortuaries and other facilities created as memorials or for the purpose of burying the dead
  • Defacing, damaging and tampering with agricultural property

Sanctions and Punishments

Vandalism charges come with a number of distinctive punishments that depend on the scope of the criminal damage. Usually, vandalism will be classified as a Class 4 felony when the value of the damage inflicted is above 10,000 dollars. The penalties range from 1.5 to three years in prison. This is the most serious charge and it typically applies to excessive vandalism that causes a lot of damage.

A Class 2 misdemeanor will apply to vandalism that causes damage of less than 250 dollars. Such a charge may come with up to four months in jail, as well as a fine of up to 750 dollars.

A Class 6 felony charge will apply in situation when the cost of the criminal damage is between 250 and 2,000 dollars. This is the least severe all of felony charges but it may still come with serious sanctions. The possible penalty is anywhere between six and 18 months in prison, as well as a fine.

When aggravated criminal damage occurs, the perpetrator will be charged with a Class 6 to a Class 4 felony.

To determine the scope of the damage, the investigators will take a look at the cost of doing repairs, the need for replacement of damaged property, any livestock or crop losses and the cost of equipment that will have to be hired or bought for the purpose of restoring the property to its original appearance/function.

Hate Crime, Vandalism Laws and Sanctions in Arizona

In Arizona, hate crime is not recognized as a separate criminal offense. It could, however, contribute to additional charges and more severe penalties.

A hate crime in the state is defined as an underlying criminal act that is motivated by hatred towards an ethnic group, a religious group or a person on the basis of their sexual orientation, disability, gender, nation of origin, etc.

vandalism laws and sanctions in arizonaA person that commits vandalism will get a sentence in a certain range. If the vandalism is a hate crime, a more severe sentence will usually be applied.

Vandalism is one of the most typical hate crimes, which is why courts will usually pay a close attention to the motives of the defendant. In Arizona, hate crime vandalism has been on the rise in cities like Phoenix that have a diverse population.

Regardless of the vandalism motivation, good criminal defense will be required. A few possible defense scenarios include claiming property defacing was an accident, there was no malicious intent or that permission from the owner has been received, or by claiming that so-called vandalism was an act of political expression.