In the state of Georgia, criminal damage to property is the most common property damage crime. There are a few crimes that fall into this category, including criminal damage to property in the first and second degrees, interfering with government property and “smash and grab” crimes. Each of these crimes is charged as a felony, with the exception of some cases of interfering with government property. And, as will any felony, a conviction means jail time.
Don’t face these accusations alone. An experienced attorney from Hawkins Spizman Fortas can help you fight criminal damage to property charges in Atlanta. We understand that every case is unique, and we also know that each classification of criminal damage to property requires a different kind of defense. Not sure what your charges really mean? Don’t worry, we have you covered.
The Different Kinds of Criminal Damage to Property
According to Georgia Code 16-7-22, criminal damage to property in the first degree occurs when the perpetrator knowingly and unlawfully interferes with property in such a way that it puts other lives at risk. It also covers instances in which a person knowingly and unlawfully interferes with any public service, such as communication, power, transportation and water, by use of force or violence. Criminal damage to property in the first degree is a felony and is punishable by 1 to 10 years in prison.
Criminal damage to property in the second degree carries a lesser sentence, but is nonetheless a serious offense. According to Georgia Code 16-7-23, the crime is committed when a person intentionally and unlawfully causes damage to someone else’s property that exceeds $500. In addition, it also covers unlawfully damaging another person’s property by means of fire or explosives. This can happen either intentionally or recklessly. A conviction of criminal damage to property in the second degree comes with 1 to 5 years in prison.
Interference with government property is taken seriously in Atlanta. According to Georgia Code 16-7-24, interference with government property includes destroying, damaging and/or defacing government property. Yes, this does include graffiti on highway concrete barriers and on MARTA bridges. A conviction of this sort of interference with government property is a felony, and comes with imprisonment of 1 to 5 years. Blocking the entrance to government property, such as during a protest, is also considered interference with government property. However, this is generally treated as a misdemeanor, with a fine of no more than $1,000 and/or up to 12 months in jail.
Finally, “smash and grab” burglaries are also considered criminal damage to property. According to Georgia Code 16-7-2, when a person breaks into a retail establishment with the intent of theft, and cause damage of $500 or more in the process, they have committed a smash and grab burglary. Though this crime is most often associated with jewelry stores and the like with their glass cases, it applies to any retail store. Smash and grab burglaries are a felony. Upon the first conviction, the punishment is 2 to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000. The second conviction comes with the same fine and/or 5 to 20 years in prison.
Don’t Risk a Public Defender
In cases of criminal damage to property in Atlanta, you need an experienced attorney who has the time and resources to treat your case with personal care. Public defenders may have experience, but they also have about 50 other cases to tend to. Trust the criminal defense attorneys at Hawkins Spizman Fortas to build the strongest argument for your case to get your charges reduced — or even possibly dropped. Contact us today at 770-651-0166 for a free case evaluation.