Vandalism is a crime that occurs when a person destroys or desecrates property of another person without permission. The effects of vandalism may include broken windows, graffiti, damage to vehicles, and even damage or destruction of the web site of a person. The results of vandalism are to the naked eye on billboards, street signs and building structures, as well as near bus stops, tunnels, cemeteries, and many other public spaces.

While vandalism may be considered “art” by some, is nonetheless a crime against property which is punishable with penalties of imprisonment, fines or both.

What is vandalism?

Vandalism is a broad category crime that is used to describe a variety of behaviors. In general, the vandalism includes any intentional conduct designed to destroy, alter or defile the property that belongs to a third party.

The shared behaviors that can lead to a charge for vandalism include:

  • spray paint the property of another with the purpose of profanarlos;
  • throwing eggs at the car or the window of another;
  • pass a key (or scratch) the paint of the car of someone;
  • breaking the windows of someone;
  • defiling public property with graffiti and other forms of “art”;
  • puncture the tires of someone;
  • damage to park benches and
  • alter or take down traffic signals;
  • kicking, or damaging the property of someone with their hands or feet, among other behaviors.

In addition, a person who possesses the means to commit acts of vandalism, including the possession of a drill bit, cutter, glass, or other substance, may also face charges for vandalism in certain circumstances (for example, a person under the age of eighteen years carrying a can of spray paint in a park or on school property).

Laws against vandalism

Vandalism is covered by state laws and varies from state to state. Some states refer to vandalism as a “damage criminal”, “trespass-malicious”, “malicious conduct,” or other terms. In an effort to control the impact of the vandalism, many states have specific laws that can deter certain forms of vandalism. For example, some states have “local laws of the containers of spray” that limit the purchase of containers of spray paint or other ‘tools of vandalism” that could be used to paint graffiti, or for the purposes of vandalism.

In addition, some states have laws that prohibit vandalism to certain types of goods, such as cars, churches, school property, and government facilities.

On the other hand, some states have laws that prohibit specific acts of vandalism such as breaking windows, painting graffiti and using artificial substances to destroy the property of others.

Purpose of the law

There are laws against vandalism to avoid the destruction of property and public spaces, and can also exist to protect against crimes motivated by hatred and other behaviors directed at religious groups or minorities, such as the plunder of a church or synagogue, paint graffiti, racist or sexist behaviour on the school property or to burn a swastika in a car.

Sanctions and punishments

Depending on the specific state, and the value of damage to property, vandalism may be charged as amisdemeanor or a felony serious. The penalties typically include fines, imprisonment in the county jail, or both. In addition, a person convicted of vandalism is ordered frequently to wash, repair or replace the damaged property (known as “restitution”) or participate in programs to clean up graffiti and other forms of vandalism. On the other hand, one of the parents of a minor may be sentenced to pay fines resulting from uncivil behaviour of their children under a theory of “parental responsibility”.

By itself, the vandalism is considered a non-violent offense that usually affects the “quality of life”, but that can escalate to more serious crimes involving typically the young people, including theft/larceny, second-degree burglary, drug possession, disturbing public order and other acts of random violence.

Defenses against vandalism

The defenses to vandalism typically include circumstances that might “mitigate” or lessen the penalties, such as indifference, accident, mischief, or creative expression. Despite the fact that vandalism is a crime that generally requires completion of the act, does not require that we “get caught with their hands in the dough”. You can be accused of vandalism after the fact if there are witnesses, surveillance, or other evidence that could tie into the crime.


Vandalism can cost the states millions of dollars each year in cleanup efforts and costs of other programs, and cause psychological damage or emotional to the owners. When a person deteriorates, alters, or destroys in any way property of someone, you may have to clean, repair or replace the damaged goods or, more substantial, to face criminal sanctions in the form of prison sentences, fines or both.

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