Understanding Criminal Property Damage Charges
In Georgia, criminal property damage is the most common form of property damage. Broken down into 1st and 2nd degree charges, both forms of criminal property damage are felonies and can lead to life-altering consequences. However, the severity of sentencing relies heavily on whether the defendant is charged with 1st degree or 2nd degree criminal property damage.
1st Degree Criminal Property Damage
An individual can be charged with first-degree criminal damage to property (O.C.G.A. §16-7-22) if he or she:
- Knowingly and without authority interferes with property in a way to endanger human life; or
- Knowingly, without authority, and by use of force or violence interferes with the operation of any public communication, transportation system, sewer, drainage, water supply, gas, or other public utility.
A charge of first-degree criminal property damage carries a potential sentence of 1 to 10 years of imprisonment.
2nd Degree Criminal Property Damage
An individual can be charged with second-degree criminal damage to property (O.C.G.A. §16-7-23) if he or she:
- Intentionally damages any property of another person without his consent and the damage thereto exceeds $500.00; or
- Recklessly or intentionally, by means of fire or explosive, damages property of another person.
A charge of second-degree criminal property damage carries a potential sentence of 1 to 5 years of imprisonment.
Other Property Damage Charges
In addition to criminal property damage in the first or second degree, there are other property laws that can result in either felony or misdemeanor convictions.
Interference with Government Property (O.C.G.A. §16-7-24) – There are two actions that can result in being charged with the offense of interference with government property. Those who are found to be guilty of destroying, damaging, or defacing government property face a felony conviction and a potential sentencing of 1 to 5 years in jail. Those who are found to be guilty of forcibly interfering with or obstructing traffic into or from government property may be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to one year in jail.
Damaging, Injuring, or Interfering with Property of Public Utility Companies (O.C.G.A. §16-7-25) – There are two actions that can result in being charged with the offense of damaging, injuring, or interfering with property of public utility companies, municipalities, or political subdivisions. Those who are found guilty of intentionally injuring, damaging, destroying, or interfering with any meters, pipes, lines, wires, or posts belonging to a public municipality; or interfering with any service and/or attempting to divert any services of public utility can result in a misdemeanor charge and potential sentencing of up to one year in jail.
Smash and Grab Burglary (O.C.G.A. §16-7-2) – A person commits the offense of smash and grab burglary when he or she intentionally and without authority enters a retail establishment with the intent to commit a theft and causes damage in excess of $500.00 to such establishment without the owner’s consent. This felony charge carries a potential sentencing of 2 to 20 years in jail for a first offense and/or a fine of up to $100,000.
Legal Representation for Charges of Property Damage
At Andersen, Tate & Carr, our attorneys are dedicated to reaching the best possible outcome for our clients. Our criminal defense attorneys, Patrick McDonough and Trinity Hundredmark, have combined experience of more than 30 years representing clients facing criminal charges in Georgia. For more information, or to request a case evaluation, contact our law office at 1-770-822-0900.