New York Property Damage Lawyers Explain Charges

Posted By Galluzzo and Johnson LLP || 9-May-2011

Having practiced criminal law for ten years, we have seen hundreds of cases in New York City where people have been arrested and charged with felonies or misdemeanors because they intentionally or recklessly caused damage to another person's property. These cases frequently occur in domestic situations where an argument between family members, spouses or domestic partners escalates and someone punches a wall, breaks a window, or damages any personal property in a residence belonging to a spouse or relative. We've also seen many cases where people punch out or hurl objects into storefront windows, quite often because they've had too much to drink and sober up just in time to find themselves in handcuffs. Another common case involves disputes between automobile drivers, where one driver or passenger gets out of a vehicle after a traffic dispute over a parking spot or over who had the right of way, and ends up knocking off the opposing driver's side view mirror, or uses an object to break windows or dent the vehicle. Making graffiti, while considered by many as a form of artistic expression and even beautification, is not so viewed by the NYPD and the DA's office (See our prior blawg dealing with the nuances of graffiti charges in NY). Any case involving the damage of another person's property is taken seriously by the District Attorney's Office which will often seek to procure a sentence involving restitution to compensate the property owner for the damage, as well as community service, probation, or even a term of incarceration.

Here are some of the common charges which are applicable in these types of cases:

Criminal Mischief.

Criminal mischief is a broad crime encompassing intentional and reckless damage to property. The degrees are distinguished primarily by the monetary value of the damage caused. There are provisions for intentional and reckless damage to property, damage to abandoned buildings, even the use of explosives to cause damage. Anyone who damages the property of another will be charged under one of these sections:

S 145.00 Criminal mischief in the fourth degree.

  A person is guilty of criminal mischief in the fourth degree when,
having no right to do so nor any reasonable ground to believe that he
has such right, he:
  1. Intentionally damages property of another person; or
  2. Intentionally participates in the destruction of an abandoned
building as defined in section one thousand nine hundred seventy-one-a
of the real property actions and proceedings law; or
  3. Recklessly damages property of another person in an amount
exceeding two hundred fifty dollars.
  Criminal mischief in the fourth degree is a class A misdemeanor.
S 145.05 Criminal mischief in the third degree.
  A person is guilty of criminal mischief in the third degree when, with intent to damage property of another person, and having no right to do so nor any reasonable ground to believe that he has such right, he damages property of another person in an amount exceeding two hundred
fifty dollars.
  Criminal mischief in the third degree is a class E felony.
 S 145.10 Criminal mischief in the second degree.
  A person is guilty of criminal mischief in the second degree when with intent to damage property of another person, and having no right to do so nor any reasonable ground to believe that he has such right, he damages property of another person in an amount exceeding one thousand five hundred dollars.
  Criminal mischief in the second degree is a class D felony.
S 145.12 Criminal mischief in the first degree.
  A person is guilty of criminal mischief in the first degree when with
intent to damage property of another person, and having no right to do
so nor any reasonable ground to believe that he has such right, he
damages property of another person by means of an explosive.
  Criminal mischief in the first degree is a class B felony.

Auto Stripping. Where a person is charged with causing damage to an automobile, that person is subject to prosecution for Auto Stripping, even if the vehicle is abandoned. Prosecutors favor securing convictions for Auto Stripping in the Third degree because any future charge for Auto Stripping within 5 years is automatically bumped up to a E felony:

§ 165.09  Auto stripping in the third degree.
    A person is guilty of auto stripping in the third degree when:
    1.  He or she removes or intentionally destroys or defaces any part of a vehicle, other than an abandoned vehicle, as  defined  in  subdivision one of section one thousand two hundred twenty-four of the vehicle and traffic law, without the permission of the owner; or
    2. He or she removes or intentionally destroys or defaces any part of an abandoned  vehicle,  as  defined  in  subdivision one of section one thousand two hundred twenty-four of the vehicle and traffic law,  except that it is a defense to such charge that such person was authorized to do so pursuant to law or by permission of the owner.
    Auto stripping in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor.

Criminal Tampering.

This charge applies when someone breaks a payphone, or unlawfully tampers or makes a connection with property of a gas, electric, sewer, stream, water-works, or with the property of any public carrier or a public utility operated by a municipality or district:

S 145.14 Criminal tampering in the third degree.

  A person is guilty of criminal tampering in the third degree when,
having no right to do so nor any reasonable ground to believe that he
has such right, he tampers with property of another person with intent
to cause substantial inconvenience to such person or to a third person.
  Criminal tampering in the third degree is a class B misdemeanor.
S 145.15 Criminal tampering in the second degree.
  A person is guilty of criminal tampering in the second degree when,
having no right to do so nor any reasonable ground to believe that he
has such right, he tampers or makes connection with property of a gas,
electric, sewer, steam or water-works corporation, telephone or
telegraph corporation, common carrier, or public utility operated by a
municipality or district; except that in any prosecution under this
section, it is an affirmative defense that the defendant did not engage
in such conduct for a larcenous or otherwise unlawful or wrongful
purpose.
  Criminal tampering in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.
S 145.20 Criminal tampering in the first degree.
  A person is guilty of criminal tampering in the first degree when,
with intent to cause a substantial interruption or impairment of a
service rendered to the public, and having no right to do so nor any
reasonable ground to believe that he has such right, he damages or
tampers with property of a gas, electric, sewer, steam or water-works
corporation, telephone or telegraph corporation, common carrier, or
public utility operated by a municipality or district, and thereby
causes such substantial interruption or impairment of service.
  Criminal tampering in the first degree is a class D felony.

Other possible charges arising out of situations involving property damage:

Reckless Endangerment of Property.

S 145.25 Reckless endangerment of property.

  A person is guilty of reckless endangerment of property when he
recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of damage
to the property of another person in an amount exceeding two hundred
fifty dollars.
  Reckless endangerment of property is a class B misdemeanor.

Unlawfully posting advertisments.

S 145.30 Unlawfully posting advertisements.
  1. A person is guilty of unlawfully posting advertisements when,
having no right to do so nor any reasonable ground to believe that he
has such right, he posts, paints or otherwise affixes to the property of
another person any advertisement, poster, notice or other matter
designed to benefit a person other than the owner of the property.
  2. Where such matter consists of a commercial advertisement, it shall
be presumed that the vendor of the specified product, service or
entertainment is a person who placed such advertisement or caused it to
be placed upon the property.
  Unlawfully posting advertisements is a violation.
 Making Graffiti.

If you or anyone you know has been accused of damaging the property of another, contact an experienced criminal attorney immediately. At Galluzzo and Johnson LLP, our team of former prosecutors will work to negotiate the best result possible for you. It is important to have an experienced lawyer represent you in any matter which can result in incarceration, or subject you to having a permanent criminal record.

“New York Property Damage Lawyers Explain Charges”

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