A Destruction of Property charge in Virginia is a misdemeanor or felony charge that criminalizes causing damage to another's property. Many cases involving destruction of property that have come through the courts involve bitter spouses, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances where tensions become high. Other cases may involve graffiti or other destruction of monuments. In Fairfax County, this charge will typically involve restitution to make the owner "whole" and can be resolved favorably in many cases.
Destruction of Property is criminalized under Virginia Code §18.2-137. The charge can be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the type of property damaged and the extent of the damage involved. Some of the things we look at in these cases is the type of property damaged, the value of the damage, whether or not the Commonwealth can prove that the Defendant was the guilty party, and what can be done to fix the damage prior to court.
Destruction of Property or Monument: 18.2-137(A)
It is a Class 3 Misdemeanor in Virginia to unlawfully destroy, damage, or deface property (not their own) or a monument or memorial for war veterans. The statute also includes destroying, damaging, or defacing a monument erected for the purpose of marking a site of any engagement fought during the War between United States. Finally, the statute includes those monuments used for designating the boundaries of any city, town, tract of land, or any tree marked for that purpose.
If convicted, the person will be guilty of a Class 3 Misdemeanor. The penalty for destroying, damaging, or defacing such a monument or property is a fine of up to $500. However, the Court has the authority to dismiss a destruction of a monument charge if the locality or organization responsible for managing the property files a written affidavit with the court that it has received full payment for the damage. In our experience, many Judges will also dismiss a Destruction of Property charge under this part of the statute if the owner of the property has received full payment for the damage.
Destruction of Property or Monument: 18.2-137(B)
Misdemeanor Destruction of Property
It is a Class 1 Misdemeanor if a person intentionally causes damage to property or a monument and the value of the damage is less than $1,000. This misdemeanor offense is the most frequent charge we see under this statute. Many times, this offense involves broken windows, vehicular damage, damage to the home, or even injury to pets (a pet is personal property).
The punishment for this offense is up to 12 months in jail with a fine up to $2500. However, while a lengthy jail sentence is unlikely, jail time is possible. A main concern for the Court will be ensuring that the person make payment of restitution to the victim so the Court will usually fashion a sentence requiring restitution with jail time hanging over their head (known as a suspended jail sentence).
In this type of case, resolving the case typically revolves around getting the alleged victim paid for the damage. Many prosecutors and Judges will agree to dismiss the charge when full payment is made provided there is nothing aggravated (such as no one was seriously hurt).
Felony Destruction of Property
It is a Class 6 Felony if a person intentionally causes damage to either property or a monument and the value of the damage is $1,000 or more. Unfortunately, this day in age lends itself to a felony charge simply because everything is expensive. After all, damage to the windshield of a Cadillac today can certainly result in more than $1,000 in value because of the modern technology used.
The punishment for a Felony Destruction of Property charge in Virginia is 0 days in jail to 5 years in prison with a fine of up to $2500.
In these cases, we are looking for either outright dismissal or, worst case scenario, a reduction to Misdemeanor Destruction of Property so that our client avoids a felony conviction on their record. As with a misdemeanor charge, we are looking to get the victim restored prior to Court so we can have some teeth in our negotiations with the prosecutor.
Value of Property Damaged
It is important to ensure that the Commonwealth proves the value of the damaged property. The statute requires proof of the fair market cost of repair or fair market replacement value. In many cases, a felony and misdemeanor charge hinges on this cost of repair or replacement. Case law in Virginia has held that a victim cannot simply testify to the estimated cost of repairing damage because it is hearsay. Rather, they must prove the value of through either expert testimony or affidavit.
Dismissal of Destruction of Property: 19.2-303.2
This little known statute allows the Court to dismiss a property charge after the person fulfills the terms and conditions placed upon them. Specifically, anyone who has not been previously convicted of a Felony who is found by the Court to have committed the offense can have the charged dismissed after successful completion of probation. Probation usually requires full repayment of restitution, having no further violations of law, and payment of court costs.
In Fairfax County, Judges will use this statute for the right case. If we cannot get the prosecutor to agree to dismiss the charge, we will seek dismissal from the Court. The case will usually be continued between 6 months and 1 year and other terms and conditions will be placed on our client. However, afterwards, the charge can be dismissed so our client can avoid a criminal conviction.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation
When clients come into our office with a Misdemeanor or Felony Destruction of Property or Monument charge in Fairfax County, our goal immediately translates to working the case in a manner so the charge can be dismissed. We are in Court everyday and can help you navigate through this case so you can get through it and move on with your life. Feel free to use the contact form below or give us a call. We would be happy to help.