Criminal Damage

Defense to Criminal Damage Charge

In Arizona, criminal damage is a common but serious charge and it can have severe consequences. Under A.R.S. §13-1602, criminal damage occurs when someone recklessly defaces or damages property of another person; or when someone recklessly tampers with property of another person so as substantially to impair its function or value. Criminal damage can also occur when someone draws or inscribes a message, slogan, sign or symbol that is made on any public or private building, structure or surface, except the ground, and that is made without permission of the owner.

Additionally, criminal damage that occurs at certain places can result in a more serious offense of “aggravated criminal damage.” When the criminal damage occurs, intentionally or recklessly, among other places, at a place of worship or educational facility, the charge will be aggravated. See A.R.S. § 13-1604.

A conviction for criminal damage can have severe consequences. For the standard criminal damage charge (non-aggravated) in A.R.S. § 13-1602, the crime can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the amount of damage that occurs. Aggravated criminal damage is charged as a felony.

As no specific intent is required to be demonstrated by the State in prosecuting criminal damage matters, careful attention must be paid to the manner in which the property in question was damaged, the extent of the damage, the ownership of the property in question, and the actual circumstances leading to the damage of the property. A common defense in criminal damage cases is to argue that the defendant’s actions were not “intentional” nor “reckless.” In Arizona, what amounts to “reckless” has a specific meaning. See A.R.S. § 13-105. Acting recklessly means a person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk . . . and the risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard of such risk constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. See id. If, therefore, the damage was a result of an accident or negligence, no criminal damage conviction can be obtained.

If you have been charged with criminal damage in Arizona, you should not take such a charge lightly. Harlow Spanier & Heckele PLLC’s criminal defense attorneys in Arizona can provide you with a vigorous defense to criminal damage charges, and we will help you explore all options so that you obtain a favorable outcome. CALL TODAY FOR A CONSULTATION: (520) 433-9031. Or email us at