Have you Been Charged with Criminal Damage to Property in the 1st Degree?
Criminal damage to property and criminal trespass are similar crimes, but criminal damage to property carries much more significant penalties. At Lawson and Berry, we understand the intricacies of crimes and how to differentiate between them. Don't use up valuable time trying to figure it out by yourself. Contact our offices today and speak to one of our Georgia Criminal Damage Attorneys about your case.
What is Criminal Damage to Property in the 1st Degree?
A person commits the offense of criminal damage to property in the 1st degree when they:
- Knowingly and without authority interfere with any property in a manner as to endanger human life; or
- Knowingly and without authority and by force or violence interfere with the operation of public communication, public transportation, sewerage, drainage, water supply, gas, power, or other public utility service or with any constituent power thereof.
Georgia Case Law
A man was charged with criminal damage to property in the 1st degree and found guilty in Robinson v. State. 288 Ga. App. 219, (2007). In that case, Robinson was employed as a painter for a remodeling job at Applebee's. He went to pick up his check after the renovation was completed but was told he would have to come back a couple of days later. Robinson became very upset and left the restaurant but returned 20 minutes later with a gas can. He started damaging the restaurant's tables by flipping them over and the carpet when he poured gasoline on them in the presence of the restaurant's employees and patrons. The Court found there was sufficient evidence to convict him of first-degree criminal damage to property because he put numerous people's lives in danger.
A case where the evidence did not support a criminal damage to property conviction can be found in Interest of M.D.L. 271 Ga. App. 738, (2005). The defendant was charged with first-degree criminal damage to property and aggravated assault. The evidence showed that he fired shots into the victim's car and later fired shots at into a house. However, no evidence was presented to suggest that the car was occupied at the time of the shooting or that the car was close enough to the house that bullets could have entered the house. Therefore, the Court found that there was no endangerment of human life because the car was not occupied. The defendant was acquitted of the criminal damage to property charge but convicted of aggravated assault.
What Must be Proven to be Convicted?
To be convicted of criminal damage to property in the first degree, the State must show that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This involves proving that human life was endangered during the incident or a public service was interfered with.
Penalty for Criminal Damage to Property in Georgia
If convicted of criminal damage to property in the first degree in Georgia, the punishment will be a prison term between one and ten years. In addition, it will be charged as a felony, which has far-reaching consequences. A felony conviction can prevent you from owning a firearm, obtaining credit, finding a job, or procuring housing.
Defenses in Georgia for Criminal Damage to Property in the First Degree
It was an accident: Criminal damage to property requires that the act is done knowingly. If the interference was accidental or someone's life was unintentionally endangered, that would negate the necessary elements and possibly help obtain an acquittal.
No one's life was endangered: As seen in the case of Interest of M.D.L., the evidence must show that someone's life was endangered by the defendant's actions. If no one was endangered, then they cannot be guilty of criminal damage. However, they could still be guilty of another crime.
Authority to interfere: If the defendant had the authority to interfere with a public service, then that would be a sufficient defense.
What are Not Defenses
The victim's life was really endangered: The Court does not specify exactly what kind of conduct endangers human life, but if it was endangered at all, then that will be enough for a conviction.
No matter the crime, our attorneys can help. We have decades of criminal defense experience and obtained thousands of ideal outcomes for our clients. Contact our Criminal Damage Lawyers today for assistance with your case.