When someone damages your property, the impact feels less severe than when someone attacks you physically. However, it is still a harmful violation. When an individual destroys, defaces, or damages the property of another without that person's permission, they have committed an act of vandalism. Every state deals with vandalism differently and categorizes vandalism crimes accordingly. New York vandalism laws fall under two different property damage crimes: criminal mischief or criminal tampering.
Criminal Mischief in New York
New York recognizes differing degrees of criminal mischief based on factors including:
- the mental state: whether you intentionally, recklessly, or accidentally damaged someone's property
- the cost of the damage to the property
- the type of property damaged
- the means used to carry out the property damage
Criminal mischief in the fourth degree is the least serious of these offenses and involves damaged property exceeding $250. On the other end of the spectrum is criminal mischief in the first degree. This offense does not specify a monetary amount of damage and is based solely on the means of the property damage: A person is guilty if he or she damages someone's property by using explosives. Due to the extreme method used by the offender, first degree criminal mischief is a class B felony and can result in a prison sentence of up to 25 years.
Criminal Tampering in New York
Criminal tampering is the action a person takes to meddle or interfere with someone's property. The crime is divided into three degrees; the degree depends on what you tampered with and your intent. The most serious of the offenses, criminal tampering in the first degree, is the only such offense that is a felony and carries with it a possible sentence of seven years in prison.
New York Vandalism Laws
The chart below provides a summary of state laws related to vandalism laws in New York, including links to important code sections.
Fourth degree criminal mischief elements:
- Intentionally damages someone's property; or
- Intentionally participates in the destruction of an abandoned building; or
- Recklessly damages someone's property in an amount exceeding $250; or
- Acts with intent to disable or remove communicating sending equipment while a person is trying to get emergency assistance in order to protect himself, herself, or a third party from imminent physical injury.
Third degree criminal mischief elements:
- Damages someone's motor vehicle by breaking into it with the intent of stealing property and within the previous ten year period, the offender has been convicted three or more times in separate criminal transactions of fourth degree criminal mischief, third degree criminal mischief, second degree criminal mischief or first degree criminal mischief; or
- Damages someone's property in an amount exceeding $250.
Second degree criminal mischief elements:
- Damages someone's property in an amount exceeding $1500
First degree criminal mischief elements:
- Damages someone's property by using explosives
- Third degree criminal tampering: tampers with the property of another to cause inconvenience
- Second degree criminal tampering: tampers or makes connection with property of a utility company including: gas, electric, sewer, telephone, and others.
- First degree criminal tampering: acts with the intent to and does cause interruption/impairment of services of a utility company.
- Criminal mischief: lack of intent, you had a right to interfere with the property.
- Criminal tampering: Since first degree requires intent, you can argue that it was an accident. You can also argue that the company is not the type of company designated in the statute. For second degree, you can argue that you were unaware of the tampering.
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.
New York Vandalism Laws: Related Resources
Speak with a Criminal Defense Attorney
Whether it's criminal mischief or criminal tampering, vandalism violations in New York can have serious consequences. If you're facing these charges, you probably want to know the best way to defend yourself. Take the first step and speak with a criminal defense attorney in your area today.