Arizona’s Criminal Damage Charged in DUI and Other Crimes

by Aaron Black • September 05, 2019

Shattered car windowCriminal damage in Arizona law is alleged in crimes involving property, and in some cases the seriousness of this charge is equal in severity to some offenses against people. Criminal damage is charged in Maricopa County DUI cases involving vehicle crashes.

Criminal damage can be just about anything involving someone else’s property. A spate of 120 acts of vandalism last April in Queen Creek, AZ neighborhoods left car windows shattered and car doors kicked in, reported the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Two juveniles were deemed persons of interest.

Arizona’s Criminal Damage Law

Arizona Revised Statute §13-1602 has a list of “reckless” behaviors that qualify as criminal damage.
  • Painting Graffiti on private and public buildings, structures or surfaces such as sidewalks without the permission of the property owners is criminal damage under defacing or damaging someone’s property.
     
  • Arizona in prosecuting hate crimes against minorities and religions uses criminal damage as an included offense.
     
  • Tampering with someone’s property to substantially impair its’ function or value.
     
  • Damaging or intentionally tampering with a utility’s property.
     
  • Parking a vehicle in any way that deprives livestock access to the only reasonably available water.

Legal Elements of Criminal Damage

A conviction for criminal damage requires a person to have acted recklessly or intentionally in committing the offense.

Arizona law defines reckless in criminal damage as acting in a way that shows complete disregard for the property and the consequences that are likely to occur.

Intentionally means a person’s true objective is to inflict damage or to engage in that conduct.

In DUI cases intent is not required for a conviction.

Criminal damage charges

The particular charge for causing criminal damage depends on the financial harm caused by the act which determines if the crime is prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Arizona law establishes financial thresholds that take into account the seriousness of the offense. The damages include reasonable cost for any kind of labor, materials, and costs to abate or repair the damage to the property.
  • The crime is a class 2 misdemeanor if the damage caused is less than $250.
     
  • A more serious class 1 misdemeanor is charged if the damage is at least $250 but less than $1,000.
     
  • The charge becomes a class 6 felony if the damage is $1,000 or more but less than $2,000.
     
  • A class 5 felony begins at $2,000 and is less than $10,000, or if the damage caused was to promote, assist or further the efforts of a criminal street gang or syndicate intending to intimidate.
     
  • A class 4 felony is charged if the property of a utility is damaged causing $5,000 in repairs or if a person intentionally tampers with a utility’s property causing an imminent safety hazard. This felony is also charged if the damage to someone’s property is $10,000 or more.

Aggravated Criminal Damage

The charge can be elevated to aggravated, which has a harsher punishment, if the damaged property is on school grounds, a church, cemetery or mortuary, construction sites or agricultural property.

Determining the Value of Damaged Property

The value determines the level of the charge so an accurate evaluation performed by an appraiser is fundamental. The calculations include the cost of replacing the damaged property, the cost of making repairs including materials and labor, and the purchase or rental of equipment needed to make repairs.

Criminal Damage Punishments

A misdemeanor conviction is less serious than a felony and both levels are addressed in Arizona’s complex Criminal Sentencing Guidelines for non-dangerous and dangerous offenses to determine the length of time in custody. Arizona judges have wide discretion in sentencing and consider a number of factors in pronouncing sentences.

The guidelines have degrees of seriousness.
  • Mitigated
  • Minimum
  • Presumptive
  • Maximum
  • Aggravated
Those with prior convictions face even more harsh sentences.

Sentences for misdemeanors committed are served in Maricopa County jail and felony convictions mean incarceration in state prison. Judges may also impose expensive fines and surcharges, restitution for the victim’s financial recovery, a lengthy term of probation that restricts certain behaviors, and community service such as picking up trash from roadways.

Convicted felons are forbidden to possess or own a firearm and they lose the right to vote. Society also makes life difficult for felons to rent a place to live, and find or keep a job although the felon may allege discrimination under federal law.

Defendants who have a professional license, such as teachers and nurses, can lose the certification if convicted, even for a misdemeanor, ruining a career path.

Defenses for Criminal Damage

Defending a criminal damage charge can take different avenues depending upon the seriousness of the crime and the particular facts of the individual case along with developing mitigating evidence and challenging the dollar amount of replacement or repairs.

Authorities are not infallible. So the criminal defense attorney will perform its own probe of the state’s evidence and develop its own mitigating evidence. The defense can challenge that recklessness is overstated, argue that the damage was accidental not intentional, and that the value of the damaged property is exaggerated.

Another defense is if authorities violated constitutional rights such as failing to advise the right to remain silent and to have an attorney present during questioning.

Free, Confidential Legal Advice

If you or someone you know is charged with criminal damage I invite you to learn how you stand and what your options are.

Contact Phoenix, AZ Criminal & DUI Defense Attorney Aaron Black or call (480) 729-1683. I’ll promptly respond unless I’m in court. During the confidential conversation I’ll listen to your side, ask and answer questions and provide legal advice without any obligation to hire me for your defense.

The Law Office of Aaron Black handles criminal cases in all city, state, and federal courts in Arizona and is available 24 hours a day.