Have you Been Charged with Criminal Damage to Property in the 2nd 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 on your own. Contact our offices today and speak to one of our Georgia Criminal Damage Attorneys about your case.
Georgia law O.C.G.A. §16-7-23 reads as follows:
A person commits the offense of criminal damage to property in the second degree when they:
- Intentionally damage any property of another person without their consent, and the damage, therefore, exceeds $500.00; or
- Recklessly or intentionally, by means of fire or explosive, damages property of another person.
Criminal damage to property in the second degree and criminal trespass are nearly identical crimes except for the amount of damage required for a conviction. In addition, criminal trespass is actually a lesser-included offense of criminal damage to property in the second damage. Therefore, without criminal trespass, there cannot be criminal damage to property in the second degree.
What does Damage Mean?
The Court has found that damage frequently means depreciation in value, whether the depreciation is caused by a wrongful or a lawful act. However, it can also refer to some loss, injury, or harm that results from the unlawful act, omission, or negligence of another. Damage to property means all injuries, which one may sustain with respect to that person's ownership of personal property. Bembry v. State, 155 Ga. App. 847, (1980).
How is Value of the Property Determined?
Testimony by the owner of the property as to their opinion of the value of the property, without proof, is not sufficient to prove the value of the property. There must be some evidence of the property's value. One way to show the value is when a witness pays the monetary amount necessary to make the owner's property whole again. The amount necessary to make them whole is then a fact, not an opinion and is sufficient evidence. In cases where the value is unknown, there must be some competent evidence from which a jury could determine the value of the damage.
Georgia Case Law on Criminal Damage to Property in the Second Degree
In the case of Fleming v. State, the defendant was convicted of second-degree criminal damage to property. 324 Ga. App. 481, (2013). A neighbor was upset at defendant's repeated blaring of his music when he was trying to sleep, so he parked his truck in front of defendant's house. Defendant got upset and told the victim to move the truck, and as the victim was walking out to move his truck, the defendant threw a brick at the truck, hitting the passenger side door and step rail causing more than $500 worth of damage. During the trial, the defendant argued that he was justified in throwing a brick in defense of his home and was throwing it to convince the victim to move his truck. However, the victim was already attempting to enter his truck to move it when the brick was thrown. Therefore, the Court rejected the defendant's arguments and convicted him of criminal damage to property in the second degree.
What has to be Proven to be Convicted in Georgia?
The State must demonstrate that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of criminal damage to property in the second degree to be convicted. This involves showing that the damage done exceeded $500 as well as that it was done intentionally.
Penalty for Criminal Damage to Property in the Second Degree in Georgia
The punishment for criminal damage to property in the 2nd-degree will be a prison term between one and five years. It will also be a felony conviction.
The damage did not exceed $500: Evidence that the damage was less than $500 would negate a charge of criminal damage to property. The defendant could still be charged with another crime, but it could not be criminal damage to property.
It was unintentional: Evidence that damage to another's property was unintentional would be greatly beneficial.
Consent from the owner to cause damage: If the owner gave the defendant permission to damage their property, that would be a complete defense. An example of this is if the owner told the defendant to take his car to be compounded.
What are not Defenses
Unintentionally damaged property by means of fire or explosion: Even if the conduct was unintentional, if the Court or jury finds the conduct was reckless, then the defendant can still be convicted of criminal damage.
I thought it was someone else's' property: Whether or not it was the property you intended to damage, you will still be liable for that damage if it was over $55 of done by means of fire or explosion. The statute just requires that the act was intentional not that the right target was damage.
To schedule a free consultation with one of the Georgia Criminal Damage Attorneys at Lawson and Berry, contact our offices today. Formulating a defense on your own can be overwhelming and seemingly impossible. Our Attorneys are highly knowledgeable and will assist you in formulating the best possible defense for your case. We will walk you through every step of the process, and we are dedicated to being accessible to you- days, nights, weekends, and holidays while working hard on your behalf. Your Attorney will make sure you understand all of your options and advise you on the best approach to take for your case based on their many years of experience. Your future is at stake so don't sit around waiting for your case to resolve itself.