vandalism

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Vandalism

The intentional and malicious destruction of or damage to the property of another.

The intentional destruction of property is popularly referred to as vandalism. It includes behavior such as breaking windows, slashing tires, spray painting a wall with graffiti, and destroying a computer system through the use of a computer virus. Vandalism is a malicious act and may reflect personal ill will, although the perpetrators need not know their victim to commit vandalism. The recklessness of the act imputes both intent and malice.

Because the destruction of public and private property poses a threat to society, modern statutes make vandalism a crime. The penalties upon conviction may be a fine, a jail sentence, an order to pay for repairs or replacement, or all three. In addition, a person who commits vandalism may be sued in a civil tort action for damages so that the damaged property can be repaired or replaced.

Vandalism is a general term that may not actually appear in criminal statutes. Frequently, these statutes employ the terms criminal mischief, malicious mischief, or malicious trespass as opposed to vandalism. A group of individuals can be convicted of conspiring or acting concertedly to commit vandalism. Generally, the attempt to commit vandalism is an offense as well, but the penalties for attempted vandalism are not as severe as the penalties for a completed act. Penalties also depend on the value of the property destroyed or the cost of repairing it.

To obtain a conviction the prosecution must ordinarily prove that the accused damaged or destroyed some property, that the property did not belong to the accused, and that the accused acted willfully and with malice. In the absence of proof of damage, the defendant may be guilty of Trespass, but not vandalism. If there is no proof that the defendant intentionally damaged the property, the defendant cannot be convicted of the crime but can be held liable for monetary damages in a civil action.

Some state statutes impose more stringent penalties for the destruction of certain types of property. Such statutes might cover the desecration of a church or synagogue, the destruction of jail or prison property by inmates, and the intentional destruction of property belonging to a public utility.

Destructive acts will not be excused merely because the defendants acted out of what they thought was a noble purpose. Political demonstrators may exercise their First Amendment rights of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Association and Assembly, but if they deface, for example, government property with spray-painted slogans, they can be convicted of vandalism.

The peak period for committing relatively minor property crimes is between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one. In the United States adolescent vandalism, including the wanton destruction of schools, causes millions of dollars of damage each year. Apprehending vandals is often difficult, and the costs of repairing the damage are passed on to taxpayers, private property owners, and insurance companies. Some states hold parents financially responsible for vandalism committed by their minor children, up to specified limits. These statutes are designed to encourage parental supervision and to shift part of the cost of vandalism from the public to the individuals who are best able to supervise the children who destroyed the property.

Cross-references

Juvenile Law.

vandalism

destruction of, or damage to, property, usually but not necessarily maliciously. Scots law has a statutory offence that criminalizes this behaviour.
References in periodicals archive ?
In an ideal world railings could be deemed an unnecessary expense, but ideal we are not and being a resident close to the park have first hand of the antisocial behaviour happening under the cover of darkness, be it vandalistic or assaults.
The Massachusetts legislature's vandalistic motivation in passing the Disclosure Act could also have assumed primary importance in the litigation, rather than remaining a sidebar to the takings analysis.
In Tim Burton's ``Batman'' (1989), for example, Jack Nicholson's ``Joker'' tells his vandalistic henchmen to lay off a Francis Bacon portrait because he kinda likes it.
Many people write about destructive budgies, aggressive rabbits and vandalistic cats and dogs when left alone.
In addition to deleting desktop shortcut icons, hackers could potentially delete, format, extract and execute other damaging, illegal and vandalistic functions.
plus any preceding and following vandalistic acts that have been greatly related with the Al-Qaeda Organization and any approaches undertaken by extremist religious groups.
This vandalistic act was compounded by the fact that not only was the processional motif destroyed, but individual marbles defaced in such a way as to leave many bodies dismembered.
He said, 'Is there not a case for a much more modest and less vandalistic approach to the democratisation of this House, however worthy it may seem on the face of it.
Increasing in number every day, these vandalistic activities and programs are commonly found on the Internet, within hostile code, Web links, and as executable files in email attachments.
The report was also blasted by Ian Crichton, chairman of the joint branch committee on Teesside, who said: "This is yet another example of negative speculation and is vandalistic in context.
It is too easily used for criminal and vandalistic purposes.
Still it isn't as bad as the one released last month of dinner-suited David Cameron posing with fellow members of Oxford's notoriously snooty and vandalistic Bullingdon dining club.