A senior prank at high school goes too far when a smoke bomb and fireworks ignited and released in the cafeteria cause more than $500 in property damage. What started as a childish joke quickly escalated into felony charges.
Under Illinois law, many forms of vandalism are charged as the crime of criminal damage to property. Heightened punishments are available depending on the value and type of property damaged. If you live in the Prairie State, you should take a moment to become familiar with the basics of Illinois vandalism laws.
Criminal Damage in Illinois
Criminal damage is a broadly defined law that protects individual property rights by prohibiting people from damaging the property of others. Under Illinois law, a person is guilty of criminal damage if they perform any of the following acts without the consent of the property owner:
- Damages any property of another;
- Recklessly, by means of fire or explosive, damages someone's property;
- Knowingly starts a fire on someone's land;
- Knowingly injures someone's pet;
- Intentionally places a stink bomb or any other offensive smelling compound on the land or in the building of another with the intent to interfere with its use;
- Intentionally damages property to collect the insurance money;
- Intentionally shoots a firearm at any portion of a railroad train;
- Cuts, injures, damages, defaces, destroys, or tampers with any fire hydrant or any public or private fire-fighting equipment; or
- Intentionally opens any fire hydrant.
Penalties for Criminal Damage
The penalties for criminal damage are based on the dollar amount of damage caused or the type of property that was damaged. For example, property damage totaling $9,000 is charged as a class 4 felony that is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
However, Illinois has harsher penalties when the property involved belongs to a school or church, or when the property damaged was farm or firefighting equipment. So when the property belongs to a school or church, it only takes $350 in property damage to be sentenced to as much as five years in prison. See the chart below for a detailed review of penalties.
Illinois Graffiti Charges
It's common for other crimes to be alleged along with a criminal damages charge. Graffiti is a related property crime that involves the unauthorized writing or drawing on a wall or other surface. Under Illinois law, a person commits the offense of criminal defacement of property if they knowingly damage the property of another by defacing, deforming, or otherwise damaging the property by using paint, a writing instrument, etching tool, or any other similar device.
In addition to potential jail time, a defendant must pay the actual costs incurred by the property owner or the unit of government to abate, remediate, repair, or remove the effect of the damage to the property. ?
Overview of Illinois Vandalism Laws
The following chart highlights important aspects of the Illinois law on criminal damage and related property crimes.
|Penalties for Criminal Mischief
||Tampering with or opening a fire hydrant:
If property damage is up to $300:
- Class B misdemeanor
- Punishable by a $500 fine
If property damage is more than $300 but less than $10,000:
- Class A misdemeanor
- Punishable by up to 1 year in jail and fines up to $2,000
If property damage is $10,000 or more but less than $100,000:
- Class 4 felony
- Also Class 4 felony if the damage is committed against a school, place of worship, or to farm equipment valued at $300 or less.
- Punishable by up to 1 to 3 years in jail and fines of up to $25,000
- Class 2 felony
- Punishable by up to 2 to 5 years in jail and fines of up to $25,000
- Also applies to $300 to $10,000 in damage to school or church property, or farm equipment
- If the property is valued at more than $100,000:
- Class 2 felony
- Potential sentence of 3 to 7 years in prison and fines up to $25,000
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Illinois Vandalism Laws: Related Resources
Looking for additional information on vandalism laws in Illinois? The following links are a great starting point:
Get Legal Help With Your Illinois Vandalism Charges
A vandalism conviction can cause the denials of your applications for jobs, loans, student financial aid, apartments, and professional licenses. Don't let the negative consequences of a criminal conviction follow you around for your entire life. If you're being charged with a crime, you may want to speak with an experienced Illinois defense attorney today to learn more about the charges against you and potential defenses.