Things got a little out of hand, and now you’re facing a charge of simple criminal damage to property.
What does this charge mean? Is it a misdemeanor or a felony? Most importantly, what should you do now?
Find the answers to your questions here. You’ll have the information you want to get the defense you need.
What Is Simple Criminal Damage to Property?
According to Louisiana Revised Statutes Tit. 14:56, simple criminal damage to property is the intentional damaging of someone else’s property without the owner’s consent by any means except fire or explosion. This includes intentional damage to any structure used as a residence by the person leasing or renting the property.
Simple criminal damage to property differs from aggravated criminal damage to property (RS 14:55). Aggravated criminal damage to property is intentional damage to property where human life might be endangered.
Because of the threat to human life, the penalties for aggravated criminal damage to property are higher than those for simple criminal damage to property.
Penalties for Simple Criminal Damage to Property
The legal penalties for simple criminal damage to property depend on the value of the damage. The owner of the property will most often have a professional appraiser determine the value of the damage.
Less than $500 in Damages
If the damage amounts to less than $500, you could spend up to 6 months in jail. You may also have to pay a fine of up to $1,000.
$500 to $50,000 in Damages
If the value of the damage is between $500 and $50,000, you could face up to 2 years in prison with or without hard labor. The fine may be as much as $1,000.
More than $50,000 in Damages
If the value of the damage is more than $50,000, you could spend up to 10 years in prison with or without hard labor. You may also have to pay a fine of up to $10,000.
The court can order anyone convicted of simple criminal damage to property to make full restitution to the property owner. If you can’t fully reimburse the property owner for the damage at the time of sentencing, the court will create a periodic payment plan based on your ability to pay.
Is Simple Criminal Damage to Property a Felony?
The value of the property damage determines whether simple criminal damage to property is a misdemeanor or a felony in Louisiana.
Louisiana state law defines a felony as a crime for which the defendant can receive a sentence of imprisonment at hard labor or death. Imprisonment at hard labor means incarceration in state prison.
Some crimes, like simple criminal damage to property, have penalties that include imprisonment with or without hard labor. Even if the court doesn’t sentence you to hard labor, the conviction is still a felony. Louisiana defines felonies based on the possible punishment, not on the sentence that was actually given.
Simple criminal damage to property is a felony if the property damage is $500 or more.
Consequences of a Misdemeanor Charge
If the property damage was less than $500, you will be charged with a misdemeanor. You’ll serve any jail time in a local or parish jail like the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison or the West Baton Rouge Detention Center. Prosecutors usually have some flexibility when deciding on misdemeanor charges, the possible sentence, and any plea bargains for the defendant. A trial won’t have a jury.
A misdemeanor is less serious than a felony, but a conviction stays on your criminal record for the rest of your life.
Potential employers, colleges, and landlords usually run a background check and ask about your criminal history. A misdemeanor doesn’t automatically disqualify you, but it makes your situation more complicated.
A crime involving the destruction of private property, like simple criminal damage to property, is likely to make renting an apartment or a house very difficult. Landlords don’t want to rent to someone who has damaged private property. In addition, a misdemeanor or felony conviction makes you ineligible for government housing assistance.
Criminal records are public, so anyone can see if you have a conviction. If you’re an immigrant, even a misdemeanor can be enough to start the deportation process.
Less than $500 of damage may not seem like much, but a misdemeanor conviction has serious effects on your future.
Consequences of a Felony Conviction
If the property damage was $500 or more, the charge will be a felony. If your case goes to trial, it will probably be a jury trial. You’ll serve the prison time in one of Louisiana’s state prisons.
A felony conviction has many serious consequences, especially in Louisiana. Louisiana has the second longest list in the US of rules and restrictions that apply to convicted felons. For example, while you’re in prison, you won’t receive Social Security benefits. You aren’t eligible for Medicaid. You may lose your parental rights if you don’t pay child support or maintain contact with your child for 6 months in a row. Even after you leave prison on probation or parole, you can’t vote. You can’t own a firearm. You are ineligible for student financial aid from the state.
A felony conviction for simple criminal damage to property can put you in prison for up to 10 years. You’ll also face a range of other consequences that can affect your life after you leave prison.
What To Do If You’re Facing Property Damage Charges
If you’re facing a charge of simple criminal damage to property, you need a lawyer. Even a misdemeanor can have serious consequences both now and in the future. Look for a criminal defense attorney with experience in simple damage to property cases. You want someone who can guide you through the legal process and get you the best possible outcome.
When you need a lawyer for your criminal damage charge, contact Carl Barkemeyer to find out how he and his team can help.