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.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

vandalism

destruction of, or damage to, property, usually but not necessarily maliciously. Scots law has a statutory offence that criminalizes this behaviour.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
References in periodicals archive ?
The Government severely condemns such vandalistic and illegal acts.
It is not simply that, as a text, Wide Sargasso Sea hovers between the emblematic figures of a domesticated Jane, who, we remember, begins the text by "possess[ing herself] of a volume, " and a vandalistic Bertha, who has set fire to books, bookcases, curtains, hangings, and all; it is that a certain overinvestment in imperial memory and the gleeful unleashing of anti-mnemonic forces appear, according to these texts, to be inseparably intertwined in the revisiting of the imperial 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.
Hilldring pointedly observed to the Roberts Commission, "soldiers aren't the vandalistic people that some folks think they are." (25) Certainly it was often difficult, even impossible, to navigate the cultural terrain of war by an ethical compass; other considerations--from those of policymakers, with their geopolitical strategizing, to such practices "on the ground" as looting and black marketeering--often prevailed.
Although Wikipedia's openness allows visitors to alter entries--past examples of abuse include members of the House of Representatives removing broken campaign promises from their entries and a user from the CIA vandalizing an article on the current president of Iran-most vandalistic edits are quickly found and deleted by "Wikipedians," the volunteer editors and contributors who number just over 1 million.
"Coincidentally, the two ringleaders of these vandalistic acts against state property and petroleum platforms are mayors in the PSP, Franklin Perez and Washington Varela, who threatened to leave Quito without water," said Apolo.
In an interview given in the 1970s he said: "I think I would say I tend to destroy all the better paintings." A hundred damaged canvasses found in the studio underline this vandalistic aspect of his creativity since the head of each canvas had been neatly removed in some cases even while the paint was still wet (images of this Jack the Ripper obsession appear shockingly in the book).
As Bellamy himself puts it: 'This guide is the key to an awful lot of work done on behalf of a better, saner, less greedy, less vandalistic world.
The vandalistic nature of the Act makes the Philip Morris cases ones of interest in takings law, but only as quirks, displays of how the Takings Clause can be used to protect private parties against such window-breaking, and not as cases of significant general application.
xii-xiii), for example, that of the three contemporaneous reviews of the opera, two failed to mention the music at all, whereas Metastasio had only the harshest words for Gluck's efforts on behalf of his libretto, recounting that Semiramide riconosciula was a success thanks to the company, the decoration, and despite "unbearably vandalistic music" (a dispetto d'una musica arcivandala insupportabile).
The author concludes her historical account with the imposition, in the sixteenth century, of abbots chosen by the Crown rather than the Chapter, the Huguenot occupation of 1567, the vandalistic dispersal of the library, and finally, on a more optimistic note, the reform and renewal of monastic life by the Congregation of saint-Maur.