How to Fight Criminal Damage to Property Charges
Criminal Damage to Property is considered a very serious crime in Illinois. The punishment for Criminal Damage to Property varies depending on the specifics of the crime charged and facts proven. Penalties range from a misdemeanor and jail time to a serious felony conviction with a long-term prison sentence. If you have been arrested for or charged with Criminal Damage to Property, it is important to get a seasoned Chicago criminal defense attorney in your corner as soon as possible.
Defining Criminal Damage of Property
Broadly, Criminal Defacement of Property refers to the knowing or reckless destruction of property belonging to another person, without the owner’s permission. There are many ways Criminal Defacement of Property can be committed, including but not limited to: knowingly damaging property by any means; recklessly damaging property via fire or explosion; knowingly injuring a pet; knowingly damaging a fire hydrant; or knowingly starting a fire on someone else’s property.
Depending on the specific crime charged, the requisite level of intent may be knowing or reckless. Depending on the facts of the case, including the nature and value of the property damaged, the charges range from misdemeanor to serious felony.
Defending Against Criminal Defacement of Property Charges
There are several ways to defend against a Criminal Defacement of Property charge. Poking holes in any of the required elements undermines the prosecutor’s case. A defendant may be able to allege that the property destroyed belonged to the defendant, or that they reasonably believed it was their property, eliminating the “property of another” element. The defendant may be able to show that the alleged victim consented to the property damage. The defendant might show that the property damage was unintentional and, in the case of fire or explosions, was not reckless. The defendant may be able to point to a lack of evidence as to the identity of the perpetrator.
The prosecutor is responsible for establishing all required elements of the crime. They will rely on a variety of evidence including photographs, video recordings, statements from the victim, witness statements, evidence concerning the value of the damaged property, police reports, and other items. A savvy defense attorney can help a defendant identify all of the evidence the prosecutor does not have, as well as weaknesses in the evidence the prosecutor does provide. The evidence must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed all elements of the crime. If any necessary evidence is weak (such as eyewitness testimony that fails to place the defendant at the scene), the prosecutor’s case could fall apart. The prosecutor may be willing to offer a plea to reduced charges if they sense their case would be weak at trial.
In addition to tackling the charges head-on, there may be other options available. For first-time offenders, especially youthful offenders, the government might offer “diversion” programs in lieu of criminal prosecution. In these programs, a defendant performs community service and satisfies other requirements so that the charges are ultimately dismissed. A seasoned defense attorney can help a defendant decide when to fight and when to negotiate an alternative deal that avoids conviction and a criminal record.
EXPERIENCED ILLINOIS CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEYS IN CHICAGO AND CAROL STREAM
If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges in Illinois, protect your future and your family by seeking representation from professional and qualified Chicagoland criminal defense lawyers. Contact the Carol Stream offices of Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt at 630-665-9600.