Criminal Damage in Arizona


Criminal damage, according to A.R.S. 13-1602, is a property crime that may lead to fines, a permanent criminal record, and even time in jail or prison. Oftentimes, criminal damage crimes are charged in addition to (or as a byproduct of) other offenses, such as theft.

Most criminal damage offenses require that the action was committed “recklessly,” meaning the offender was aware of and disregarded their responsibility to refrain from causing the damage. Certain factors escalate the crime to “aggravated criminal damage,” which comes with harsher penalties.

If you’ve been accused of causing damage to property, you need to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.

What to Keep in Mind About Criminal Damage in Arizona

  • This offense is the most common crime against property in Arizona
  • Criminal damage is often charged in addition to other offenses
  • Most criminal damage crimes require the accused to have behaved recklessly
  • This offense may be considered a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the value of damage caused
  • An experienced legal professional can help you build a defense to potentially reduce your charges or have them dismissed altogether

ARS 13-1602 and Criminal Damage Factors

According to ARS 13-1602, you’ve committed criminal damage if you’ve done any of the following:

  • Recklessly damaged or defaced property
  • Recklessly damaged or intentionally tampered with a utility’s property
  • Recklessly tampered with someone else’s property, significantly impairing its value or intended function
  • Recklessly drawn a symbol, sign, slogan, or message on a private or public building without getting the owner’s permission first
  • Recklessly parked a vehicle in a way that deprived livestock of accessing their only reasonable available source of water

Criminal damage laws exist as a measure to prevent damage to public and private buildings and spaces. The offense may still occur, even if the property involved hasn’t been significantly damaged. Any visual or physical impairment (that is proven to have been caused intentionally) is sufficient for a criminal damage conviction.

“Recklessness” According to Arizona Law

Almost every type of criminal damage offense requires that the accused behaved in a reckless way. Recklessness means the person who committed the act was aware of and purposely disregarded an unjustifiable and substantial risk of the results that occurred. The risk involved must have been a gross deviation from behavior that a reasonable individual would notice in that circumstance.

It’s up to the state to prove that the defendant was acting in a reckless way when they committed the criminal damage or aggravated criminal damage offense.

What is Aggravated Criminal Damage?

In addition to protecting property and buildings from damage or destruction, criminal damage laws exist to help protect minority or religious groups against hate crimes and other similar acts. A criminal damage offense may escalate to “aggravated” criminal damage if the property involved in the crime belongs to a cemetery, mortuary, church, or school.

Tampering with, defacing, or causing destruction to construction sites, agricultural property, or a structure designed to obtain recyclable metals also qualify as acts of aggravated criminal damage.

Penalties for Criminal Damage Offenses in Arizona

The cost of equipment, material, and labor required to repair the damage will be considered when the dollar value is assessed for the destruction caused. Penalties for violating ARS 13-1602 will be decided according to the values found. If the property is worth up to $1,000, you may receive a misdemeanor charge and spend up to half a year behind bars.

For criminal damage valued between $1,000 and $10,000, you might be looking at a felony charge and multiple years in prison. As with other crimes, having prior offenses on your record or committing multiple crimes at a time will increase the severity of your penalties.

Possible Defenses for Criminal Damage in Arizona

To be guilty of criminal damage, you must have acted recklessly when you caused the destruction to the property in question. Since recklessness is a vague term that leaves plenty of room for legal interpretation, a lawyer may be able to demonstrate that you didn’t behave recklessly as part of your defense.

This would require a thorough investigation of the components of the case, like eye-witness testimony and other relevant evidence. Another potential defense strategy is showing that you didn’t actually cause the damage to the property.

Frequently Asked Questions on Criminal Damage

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions related to criminal damage in Arizona:

Q: What are some other common property crimes apart from criminal damage?

A: Like criminal damage, other property crimes are also punished according to the value of the property or item that was stolen or damaged. The most common property crimes are extortion, arson, shoplifting, theft, larceny, burglary, robbery, and criminal trespassing.

Q: How does arson impact the severity of a criminal damage charge?

A: If arson was involved in the property damage you’ve been accused of, you may be facing more serious penalties. In cases where the arson caused harm to a law enforcement officer or firefighter, or was committed on occupied property, you might be facing a felony charge of aggravated arson. This offense often involves probation and prison time, with escalated penalties if you have a criminal history.

Q: How do property crimes differ from violent crimes?

Although the two are sometimes charged together, they aren’t the same. Violent criminal offenses occur against people and include aggravated assault, robbery, rape, and murder among other crimes. Property crimes are offenses usually committed to obtain financial benefits or another person’s belongings. As mentioned, property crimes can include arson, theft, and burglary.

What to Do if You’re Facing Charges

A criminal damage charge can lead to incarceration, community service, and significant fines. If it’s an aggravated offense, you may be looking at more serious consequences. Having a criminal record can have a highly negative impact on your future opportunities, so this shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Speaking with a criminal defense attorney is the smartest strategy you can employ to potentially reduce your charges. One of our experienced legal professionals can help you look at your case and come up with the best defense strategy for this goal.

Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.

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