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Know the law: property crime

Know the law! If one of your friends has a dumb idea about tagging, sneaking onto somebody else's property, or damaging something that belongs to somebody else for whatever reason, stop and think. Tell your friend what could happen. It might seem funny or fun, but it could turn out all wrong.

Vandalism is a broad term that covers arson, criminal mischief, and graffiti. Each of these forms of vandalism is considered a property crime, and each has consequences that reflect the seriousness of the offense.

Criminal trespass is another property crime, defined as entering the property of another without the owner's consent. Criminal trespass is a Class B misdemeanor and can be increased to a Class A misdemeanor if a deadly weapon is carried or the property entered is a person's home.

big serious fact
It is a crime to encourage or help someone to destroy property. If three or more people are engaged in criminal activities, they may be viewed as criminal gang members and face harsher punishment.

In addition to criminal penalties, a juvenile's parents or guardians may also be responsible for the damage caused by the vandalism, up to $25,000 plus court costs and attorney fees.


Arson is defined as intentionally starting a fire or causing an explosion with the intent to destroy or damage any property, or recklessly disregarding whether the burning or explosion will endanger the life of some individual or the safety of the property of another.

ExampleA student starts a fire in a school bathroom. This is ARSON. It is a second-degree felony.

Regardless of the damage caused, arson is a felony. If any person dies as a result of the arson, it becomes a first-degree felony.

Criminal mischief

Criminal mischief is defined as intentionally damaging or destroying another's property or causing substantial inconvenience to the property owner.

Did You Know?
Your driver's license or privilege to get a driver's license can be suspended for up to one year for a graffiti offense.

Criminal mischief ranges from a Class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony, depending on the dollar amount of the damage and the type of property that is damaged. It is a felony to commit criminal mischief at school.

big serious fact
Several acts of criminal mischief may be combined, or AGGREGATED, to determine how the crime is charged. That means several smaller offenses can add up to a BIG offense.

This is an important point: just because the things you do seem minor, if you do enough of them you can end up facing serious consequences. Say a student slashes 100 car tires in a parking lot. If the average cost of replacing a tire is $90, the student may face a state jail felony charge and a restitution bill of $9,000.


Take Action
Find out if your community has a graffiti abatement program. If not, start one. Help organize a “paint out” day to rid your school or neighborhood of graffiti. Ask local hardware stores or businesses to donate paint and brushes.

More about graffiti

Graffiti is defined as permanently marking, painting, drawing on, etching, engraving or scratching property without the owner's permission.

Graffiti is classified as a separate property offense under the law. It carries a punishment range that is tougher than criminal mischief. Penalties range from a Class B misdemeanor to first-degree felony. These penalties are based on the amount of damage caused by the graffiti.

  • It is a state jail felony to mark graffiti on a school, place of worship or burial, public monument or community center, if the damage is $20,000 or less.
  • If three or more individuals "tag" property, they may be considered gang members and punished more severely.

Reckless damage or destruction

Reckless damage or destruction occurs when a person is aware of, but consciously disregards, a substantial and unjustifiable risk that damage or destruction of another person's property will occur.

ExampleWhile walking home from school, two kids start throwing rocks at cars, breaking the windshield of one of the cars. They have committed RECKLESS DAMAGE by disregarding the risk created by throwing rocks in public.

Reckless damage or destruction is a Class C misdemeanor.



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