Property Damage Crimes

New York Property Damage Crimes: NY Penal Law Article 145

In the boroughs of New York City - Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx - property crimes are often prosecuted with a heavy hand. Although not always a piece of every offense involving Criminal Mischief, the New York City Police Department and local District Attorney's Offices amplify property and Criminal Mischief arrests if the allegations involve graffiti. In such cases, law enforcement will charge Making Graffiti and its sister offense of Possession of Graffiti Instruments as often as they can. In fact, the NYC Vandals Squad routinely will do its best to find all the graffiti or tags they believe you are culpable for and arrest you for multiple offenses. Regardless of the property damage crime that you face, all of these misdemeanor offenses are investigated, pursued and ultimately punished equally as severe both inside New York City and outside in neighboring Westchester and Rockland Counties.

Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree (New York Penal Law 145.00), is a Class A misdemeanor. Making Graffiti (New York Penal Law 145.60) is also a Class A misdemeanor. Each of these offenses is punishable by up to one year in jail. Possession of Graffiti Instruments (New York Penal 145.65) is punishable as a Class B misdemeanor by a "mere" 90 days in jail.

The framework that you and your criminal lawyer or defense attorney will likely examine a Desk Appearance Ticket or outright and full processed arrest for PL 145.00, PL 145.60 or PL 145.65, comes from many different positions. In no particular order, you and your criminal defense attorney will ascertain:

  • Did the police actually see you damage the property? If so, what did they see and how is it set forth in your criminal complaint?
  • Assuming there is damage, is the damage in excess of $250.00? If so, the case can be prosecuted as a felony Criminal Mischief charge such as the Class E felony of Third Degree Criminal Mischief.
  • Is the property damaged private property or government property? The importance of this issue is that if the property is of the former variety, the District Attorney's Office will likely need a supporting deposition from the owner or custodian of the property to establish your lack of permission to damage the property as alleged in your complaint.
  • What did you say before, during or after your arrest? Even an apology can be an admission. Be careful as to what you say. It will be used against you if it is damaging regardless of what the police say to you.
  • Did the police recover and items, objects or tools used or could be used to damage property (if the crime relates to Making Graffiti, then Possession of Graffiti Instruments can be charged).
  • Were your actions, if true, intentional or reckless?
  • Are you a co-owner of the property or the actual owner?

There are potentially countless arrest specific questions that are too many to list here. At bottom, was there enough evidence to give rise to probable cause for your arrest and ultimately to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt after trial? If there is such evidence, how can you mitigate your conduct to convince a prosecutor to deviate downward to a non-criminal resolution such as an ACD (a six month dismissal) or a violation of Disorderly Conduct? For example, is the damage you caused superficial, in response to a threat or temporary such as washable markers or posters?

Nobody likes having his or her property damaged whether it is a kick to a car door, stomping of an iPhone or "tagging" or a building. The police, prosecutors and judges all know this as well. While it may seem like a relatively insignificant allegation to you, the simple reality is that you are likely very wrong.

Take the steps to educate yourself on the crimes of Fourth Degree Criminal Mischief, Making Graffiti and Possession of Graffiti Instruments. If you have not been arrested and the police have contacted you, exercise your right to remain silent and speak with a New York criminal lawyer. Failing to protect yourself now and take the proper steps going forward could mean the difference between moving past your arrest relatively unscathed and a life long criminal record.

Call us at 212.312.7129 or contact us online today to speak with our New York attorneys and former Manhattan prosecutors about misdemeanor property damage crimes.