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Federal Vandalism Charges

Although most people know that vandalism is against the law in Florida, few are aware that in certain cases, defendants can also be prosecuted in federal court for the same crime. Federal crimes tend to be prosecuted and punished much more aggressively than state offenses, so if you have been charged with vandalism in federal court, it is critical to speak with a federal crime attorney who can ensure that your rights are protected.

Prohibited Conduct

Under federal law, it is unlawful to destroy, injure, deface, or damage someone else’s property, which includes real property. Federal vandalism will only be charged when the land or waters in question are within the bounds of property owned by the U.S., which includes parks, historic buildings, and government structures. Those who are accused of vandalism, can also be charged with additional offenses, including:

  • Trespassing, which involves entering government property without the owner’s consent;
  • Tampering, which can be charged if a person moves or manipulates government property;
  • Harassment, which involves reckless or intentional harassment of park visitors and also requires physical contact; and
  • Obstruction, which can be charged when a person is accused of intentionally or recklessly obstructing a sidewalk, highway, trail, railroad track, public utility right-of-way, building entranceway, or other public passage.

It is important to note that a person cannot be charged with obstruction if he or she is only one of a number of people gathering together to hear a speaker.

What Qualifies as Vandalism

Vandalism is broadly defined as the destruction or defacement of another person’s property and often includes:

  • Spray painting;
  • Throwing eggs or other objects;
  • Breaking windows;
  • Defacing park benches; and
  • Arson.

Although the government is not required to prove that a defendant knew that the property belonged to the United States, prosecutors do need to provide evidence that the accused purposefully and with the knowledge that the activity was against the law inflicted the damage. The penalties that defendants face depend on the level and value of the damage inflicted on the property. For instance, if the damage exceeds $100, the accused will be charged with a felony, which could mean up to ten years in prison. Damage valued at less than $100 will instead be charged as a misdemeanor, which is still punishable by up to one year imprisonment. If there is evidence of an element of bias as a motive for the offense, the defendant could also be charged with a hate crime. These types of crimes are often charged when vandalism seems to be racially motivated or when there is evidence that offensive symbols or imagery were used during the alleged crime.

Contact a Federal Crime Attorney for a Free Case Evaluation

Those who are convicted of vandalism face exorbitant fines and even jail time. This can have a devastating effect on defendants, many of whom are irresponsible teenagers who did not realize the gravity of their actions. Having a solid defense is critical in these types of cases, so if you or your child were charged with vandalizing federal property, please contact the Miami legal team at Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., Criminal Defense Attorneys, by calling (305) 670-9919 today.

Resource:

justice.gov/usam/criminal-resource-manual-1666-destruction-government-property-18-usc-1361

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