People often think of vandalism as a relatively minor criminal offense that does not trigger serious penalties if caught and convicted. The truth, however, is that destruction of property crimes (vandalism) in Tennessee can be charged as serious criminal offenses and can result in significant penalties, including hefty fines and/or imprisonment. To make sure you understand what you are facing if arrested for vandalism, the Murfreesboro criminal defense attorneys at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explain Tennessee destruction of property crimes and the potential punishment for those crimes.
Tennessee Destruction of Property Laws
In the State of Tennessee, Tennessee Code Section 39-14-408 governs destruction of property crimes, officially referred to as “vandalism.” That statute defines vandalism as follows:
“Any person who knowingly causes damage to or the destruction of any real or personal property of another or of the state, the United States, any county, city, or town knowing that the person does not have the owner’s effective consent is guilty of an offense under this section.”
What does it mean to “cause damage?” Under Tennessee law, “damage” in the context of a vandalism allegation includes, but is not limited to:
- Destroying, polluting, or contaminating property. Polluting is further defined as “the contamination by manmade or man-induced alteration of the chemical, physical, biological, or radiological integrity of the atmosphere, water, or soil to the material injury of the right of another. Pollutants include dredged soil, solid waste, incinerator residue, sewage, garbage, sewage sludge, munitions, chemical wastes, biological materials, radioactive materials, heat, wrecked or discarded equipment, rock, sand, cellar dirt, and industrial, municipal, and agricultural waste.”
- Tampering with property and causing pecuniary loss or substantial inconvenience to the owner or a third person.
Is Vandalism a Misdemeanor or Felony in Tennessee?
Although we commonly think of vandalism as a minor crime, it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony in Tennessee. The value of property that destroyed or vandalized determines the level of the offense as well as the potential penalties you face if convicted. In Tennessee, vandalism is charged and punished using the same value of property scale as theft crimes found in Tennessee Code Section 39-14-105. If you are arrested for destruction of property, you could face the following charges and potential penalties:
- Value of the property is less than $500. Charged as a Class A misdemeanor and punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
- Value of property is $500 to $999. Charged as a Class E felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of one to six years and/or a fine of up to $3,000.
- Value of the property is $1,000 to $9,999. Charged as a Class D felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of two to 12 years and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
- Value of the property is $10,000 to $59,999. Charged as a Class C felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to 15 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- Value of the property is $60,000 or more. Charged as a Class B felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of eight to 30 years and/or a fine of up to $25,000.
What Else Do I Need to Know about Destruction of Property Crimes in Tennessee?
Keep in mind that you may also be ordered to pay restitution which represents the cost to repair or replace the property that was vandalized. This can be ordered in addition to a court fine. In addition, you can be charged and convicted of destruction of property as an accessory after the fact and/or even though the vandalism was not your idea. Fortunately, if you have been charged with vandalism, there may be a winning defense available to you.
Contact Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you were recently arrested and charged with vandalism, consult with the experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense attorneys at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.“>
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