Understanding Criminal Damage to Property in Illinois
Have you ever thought to yourself that Jazmine Sullivan’s “Bust Your Windows,” is a viable confrontation strategy? Do you ever deal with suppressing the urge of throwing a brick where you shouldn’t? Have you swung a golf club anywhere other than a golf course? If any of these pertain to you, you should probably talk to someone; but more importantly, you’re probably engaging in todays topic: Criminal Damage to Property.
Criminal Damage to Property is laid out in 720 ILCS 5/21-1 which provides that:
A person commits criminal damage to property when he or she:
Knowingly damages any property of another;
Recklessly by means of fire or explosive damages property of another;
Knowingly starts a fire on the land of another;
Knowingly injures a domestic animal of another without his or her consent;
Knowingly deposits on the land or in the building of another any stink bomb or offensive smelling compound and thereby intends to interfere with the use by another of the land or building;
Knowingly damages any property, other than as described in paragraph 2 of subsection 1 of section 20-1 with intent to defraud an insurer;
Knowingly shoots a firearm at any portion of a railroad train;
Knowingly, without proper authorization, cuts, injures, damages, defaces, destroys, or tampers with any fire hydrant or any public or private fire fighting equipment, or any apparatus appertaining to fire fighting equipment; or
Intentionally, without proper authorization opens any fire hydrant.
I personally find it borderline unbearably hysterical that a couple of college kids stink bombing a rival fraternity’s house is considered on par with Larry the Arsonist burning down a 40 acre plantation. But then again, that’s the law for you.
Sentencing for Criminal Damage to property is dependent on which element is alleged and the total value of the damages sustained by the property by the Defendant. If the value sustained is specified in the complaint against the Defendant, it’s ultimately up to the trier of fact to decide whether the damages sustained exceeded or didn’t exceed that specified value. This value is determined by the cost of the victim to repair the property damaged by the Defendant. However, if the cost of the repair exceeds the value of the property before damage, then the maximum amount chargeable to the defendant’s conduct will be the overall value of the item before damage occurred.
As you’re going to see, the difference between whether a charge of Criminal Damage to Property is a misdemeanor or a felony is a question of how many times did you run your key across the victims car. The State will need to prove that the amount of damage you committed exceeded a certain value in order to sustain a Felony charge, once they’ve proven that the burden then falls on the Defendant to disprove that the damages sustained were under that specific amount. This could mean the difference between walking away with a Class A Misdemeanor, or a Class 4 Felony.
The statute lays out the sentencing guidelines as follows:
Violation of paragraph 8 or 9 is a Class B Misdemeanor;
Violation of paragraph 1, 2, 3, 5, or 6 is a Class A Misdemeanor if the damage to property does not exceed $500.
Violation of paragraph 1, 2, 3, 5, or 6 is a Class 4 Felony when the damage does not exceed $500 and the damage occurs to a school, place of worship, farm equipment, immovable items of agricultural production, or property which honors members of the armed forces or public sector.
A violation of paragraph 4 is a Class 4 Felony when the damage to property does not exceed $10,000.
A violation of paragraph 7 is a Class 4 Felony.
A violation of paragraph 1, 2, 3, 5, or 6 is a Class 4 Felony when the damage exceeds $500, but does not exceed $10,000.
Violation of paragraph 1 through 6 is a Class 3 Felony when the damage exceeds $500 but does not exceed $10,000 and the damage occurs to a school, place of worship, farm equipment, immovable items of agricultural production, or property which honors members of the armed forces or public sector.
A violation of paragraphs 1 through 6 is a Class 3 Felony when the damage to property exceeds $10,000 but does not exceed $100,000.
Violation of paragraph 1 through 6 is a Class 2 Felony when the damage exceeds $10,000 and the damage occurs to a school, place of worship, farm equipment, immovable items of agricultural production, or property which honors members of the armed forces or public sector.
Bear in mind, that when the total value of the damage exceeds $10,000, the Court will levy a sentencing of a fine equal to the value of the damages to the property onto the Defendant. The Statute also mandates that any sentencing, that does not involve serving a sentence of incarceration, will automatically include the Defendant perform community services hours ranging between 30 to 120 hours; and finally, if the damage to property involves the destruction of crops, that individual will be liable in civil action to the owner for up to twice the market value of the crops destroyed.
Because the elements of Criminal Damage to Property require specific intent of the Defendant, such as knowingly, affirmative defenses such as voluntary intoxication are available to a Defendant to claim should the case itself proceed to trial. Whether or not the Defendant was so intoxicated that they were unable to form the necessary intent (or Mens Rea) to commit the charge of Criminal Damage to Property is a question of fact for the jury (or judge) to decide.
Furthermore, Consent is also an affirmative defense for elements 1, 3 and 5. Which, for those of you keeping score at home, is the element that involves the stink bombing of another individuals property.
There’s a reason why I find this to once again be hysterical.
Affirmative Defenses are, in simplistic terms, a valid excuse for committing the crime you’re alleged to have committed when they’re accepted by the trier of fact. Arguing an Affirmative Defense shifts the focus away from the elements of the crime, because you’re already admitting to doing it as a prerequisite for raising them, and onto whether or not your affirmative defense is a valid one. By arguing one in Court you’re essentially saying to the judge (or Jury) ‘Yes, I did in fact plant a five gallon garbage can filled with fermenting piles of composting refuse into this individuals living room, but you know something? They wanted me to.”
The humor, to me at least, is imagining the individuals crammed into a tiny room in the back of the legislature, going over the pros and cons of which language to include and what defenses to provide. Somewhere within those hallowed walls of antiquity and decadence, the legislature had to have some kind of group talk over whether or not to include ‘consent,’ as an affirmative defense to stink bombing other peoples property. Which raises the question, when have you ever consented to having your home stink bombed? Does the stink bombing industry have their hands so deeply in the pockets of the legislature that they had to provide a way out for what can otherwise be regarded as their crimes against humanity. I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care. The humor of it all is what makes writing these possible.
Hysterics aside, Criminal Damage to Property is a serious crime which can have serious ramifications for your future and your reputation within the community. A felony conviction can impact your ability to pursue certain job and educational opportunities, as well as, give apartment buildings the opportunity to deny you housing. If your charge cannot be beaten in open court, a good attorney will work with you and the prosecuting attorney in order to have the charge reduced to a misdemeanor so as to protect your future. If you’ve been charged with Criminal Damage to Property, contact my office immediately for your free consultation.