A Guide to Vandalism Charges in North Carolina

Vandalism may not seem like a significant criminal offense. However, the penalties for a vandalism conviction can be harsh, particularly for juveniles. One mistake can have serious consequences that haunt juveniles for years to come.

If you are facing vandalism charges, it is vital that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side who can help you fight the charges. A skilled attorney may be able to get the vandals and charges against you dropped or negotiate less severe penalties if you are convicted. An attorney will work to pursue the best outcome possible in your case.

What is Vandalism?

Vandalism is the act of willfully damaging or destroying another person's property. In North Carolina, a person charged with vandalism could be charged with willful and wanton injury to personal property. Personal property is defined as any movable property, such as vehicles. Defendants can also be charged with willful and wanton injury to real property. Real property is defined as fixed property that cannot be moved, such as buildings, trees, and land.

North Carolina defines several different offenses related to vandalism. These offenses can include damage to portable toilets or pumper trucks, trees, crops, or another person's land, landmarks, and vandalism of human remains.

When is Vandalism Considered a Felony?

Most vandalism cases are charged as a misdemeanor crime, carrying a jail sentence of less than a year. For example, graffiti vandalism is typically charged as a class 1 misdemeanor. The graffiti does not have to be done with spray paint; it can include any intentional mark.

Damage to real property, whether public or private, can also be charged as a misdemeanor. Damage to personal property can result in class 2 misdemeanor charges whether or not the property was actually destroyed.

There are instances in which vandalism can be charged as a felony. When a defendant has prior vandalism convictions, they may face felony charges. Additionally, vandalizing human remains will result in felony charges.

The Penalties for Vandalism

Even if you are facing misdemeanor charges, a conviction can cause significant negative consequences. Those facing misdemeanor charges will probably not face jail time, but they can face a fine of $500 and will likely have to perform at least 24 hours of community service. You will likely not have to perform additional community service if you are sentenced to jail time.

The most serious penalties associated with vandalism occur when a person is convicted of felony vandalism. Depending on the extent of the damages and the previous convictions the defendant may have, felony vandalism can mean a jail sentence of at least a few months. The fines associated with felony vandalism are also typically much higher.

Whether a person is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony vandalism charge, they will have a permanent criminal record, which could prevent them from obtaining employment, housing, and even academic opportunities in the future.

Common Defenses Against Vandalism

Facing vandalism charges can be scary, but the situation is not hopeless. There are several common legal defenses your attorney can use in vandalism cases. For example, for prosecutors to convict a person of vandalism, they need to prove the intent to destroy property.

If you show that you did not intend to destroy property, the prosecutor will have difficulty convicting you. Suppose you leaned against a person's car while talking to them and accidentally scratched the vehicle. You did not intend to damage the property. The property owner may be able to hold you financially accountable for the cost of repairing the vehicle, but you cannot be charged with the crime of vandalism.

Another common defense to vandalism is mistaken identity. Sometimes, law enforcement officers get it wrong and charge the wrong person with vandalism. You may have an alibi, putting you in a different location when the vandalism occurred.

Discuss Your Case With a Vandalism Attorney

Our criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC have extensive experience fighting for North Carolina residents charged with various crimes, including felony vandalism. We understand that you may have been at the wrong place at the wrong time, falsely accused, or simply made a mistake that should not jeopardize your future and freedom.

We have the experience needed to aggressively argue for a dismissal or reduction of the charges against you. Our attorneys will fight for your rights every step of the way, providing you with a strong legal defense. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to schedule a free case evaluation.