In Georgia, you can be criminally penalized for damage to property. Different factors including the seriousness of the offense, the danger caused by this action, and the amount of damage determine the specific criminal charge and possible penalties that one may be faced with.
What is criminal damage to property?
To understand criminal damage to property you must understand the different types of criminal damage. There are two different degrees of criminal damage to property. The different degrees vary on the intent, and the type or amount of damage caused. There are 2 degrees of criminal damage to property; 1st degree and 2nd degree. Both degrees are felonies, however, they vary in punishment.
- 1stDegree Criminal Damage to Property (C.G.A. §16-7-22)
You could be charged with criminal damage to property in the 1st degree if the prosecution has probable cause to believe you did one of the following:
- Knowingly and without authority interfered with property in a way to endanger human life, or
- Knowingly and without authority andby use of force or violence interfered with the operation of any public communication or transportation system, sewer, drainage, water supply, gas, or other public utility.
First degree criminal damage to property is a felony and carries a potential sentence of 1 to 10 years in prison. See also, Craft v. State, 309 Ga. App. 698 (2011), Gooch v. State, 289 Ga. App. 74 (2007).
- 2ndDegree Criminal Damage to Property (O.C.G.A. §16-7-22)
You could be facing 2nd degree criminal damage charges if the prosecution has probable cause t believe that you did one of the following:
- Intentionally damage someone else’s property without their consent and the damage is valued at more than $500, or
- Recklessly or intentionally, by fire or explosive, damage someone else’s property.
Like, 1st degree criminal damage to property, 2nd degree is also a felony, however, only a possible penalty of 1 to 5 years in prison. See also, Elsasser v. State, 313 Ga. App. 661 (2011), Porter v. State, 163 Ga. App. 511 (1982), Waldrop v. State, 231 Ga. App. 164 (1998).
What is criminal trespass?
Up to now, we have told you what criminal damage to property is. Let us now look at what criminal trespass is and compare and contrast the two similar but yet different laws.
In Georgia, criminal trespass covers a wide range of circumstances and situations. Under O.C.G.A 16-7-21 there are a number of different subsections related to this law, in fact there are 7 different ways to be charged with criminal trespass. In this article, we will focus on subsection (a), which is the most common form of criminal trespass.
O.C.G.A. §16-7-22(a) states that a person commits the offense of criminal trespass if he or she intentionally damages the property of another without consent of that other person, and if the damage is less than $500. Unlike criminal property damage, criminal trespass is a misdemeanor charge, which is punishable of up to a year. Also, the amount of damage is different between the two; criminal trespass is $500 or less, whereas criminal damage to property is $500 or more. See also, Pittman v. State,139 Ga.App. 661 (1976), Pierce v. State, 301 Ga. App. 167, 169 (2009).
Other Criminal damage to property charges?
- Georgia Interference with Government Property (C.G.A. §16-7-24)
There are two ways in which you can be charged with the offense of interference with government property.
- If you destroy, damage, or deface government property you will be charged with a felonyand be sentenced to a potential 1 to 5 years in prison.
- If you forcibly interfere with or obstruct traffic into or from government property you will be charged with misdemeanorinterference with government property and face up to one year in jail.
- Damaging, Injuring, Interfering with Property of Public Utilities (C.G.A. §16-7-25)
If you intentionally injure, damage, destroy or interfere with any meters, pipes, lines, wires, or posts, belonging to public utility or municipality, or if you interfere with any service or attempt to divert any services of public utility you could be charged with this misdemeanor. This offense is punishable by up to one year in jail.
Charged with Criminal Trespass or Criminal Damage to Property?
If charged with any of these offenses the consequences can be serious. That’s why you don’t want an attorney who is inexperienced and unfamiliar with the different crimes. At Bixon Law, we specialize in handling ONLY criminal matters and are experts in defending criminal charges for our clients. Contact an attorney at Bixon Law so we can start fighting for you!