Potential Defenses To Vandalism Charges

You can be charged with vandalism if you deliberately destroy another person's property. For example, if you damage a neighbor's fence because you think it has encroached on your property, the neighbor can accuse you of vandalism. Below are some of the defenses you can use against vandalism charges.

Lack of Intent

Vandalism is an intentional crime; thus, you may succeed with your defense if you can prove that you did not intend to commit the crime. Consider a case in which your tree-trimming endeavors ends up breaking a neighbor's window. If the neighbor has accused you of vandalizing their home, you can use the lack of intent defense if you can prove that your intention was to trim your trees and not to damage the neighbor's property.

This means accidental damage also doesn't count as vandalism. For example, if you were backing out of the driveway and accidentally crashed into a parked car, your actions wouldn't count as vandalism. You would be civilly liable for the damages, yes, but not guilty of a crime.

Owner Consent

Vandalism can only occur without the owner's permission. Therefore, you have not committed vandalism if the owner of the damaged or defaced property gave you permission to commit the alleged act. Consider a case in which a friend requests you to fix a dent on their car. If the neighbor is not satisfied with the result and accuses you of vandalism, you can use the consent defense to escape the charges.

Mistake of Ownership

Vandalism only applies if you deface or damage another person's property. For example, spray painting a neighbor's fence would be vandalism, while spray painting your fence is not vandalism. Thus, a mistake of ownership may help you deal with the charges. Say you bought a home and genuinely believed that the fence separating you from the nearby empty lot is yours. If you paint the fence and the owner accuses you of vandalism, you may use a mistake of ownership as a defense.

Mistaken Identity

Accusations of vandalism usually arise during protests or demonstrations. For example, you may be involved in a peaceful protest against a proposed local law when a few people in the crowd decide to egg the police or spray paint some properties. During the commotion, it is easy for the police to arrest the wrong people for the crime. You can use mistaken identity, if you can prove you didn't commit the actions, in such cases.

For more information, contact a criminal defense attorney in your area.