Dan Murphy
By: Dan Murphy

If you are charged with the crime of vandalism in or near the Denver area – now or in the future – you must have the sound legal advice and defense representation that a Denver vandalism attorney will provide, and you must contact that attorney as quickly as possible.

In the State of Colorado, “property crimes” is a term that includes all crimes against property such as vandalism, theft, robbery, shoplifting, and burglary. Vandalism, however, differs from other property crimes because it involves damaging or destroying property rather than taking it.

A crime of vandalism happens in this state when a person knowingly and intentionally damages or defaces another person’s property. Vandalism charges in Colorado are usually misdemeanor charges, but in certain cases, vandalism may be charged as a felony.

What are your rights if you are charged with vandalism? Can you legally break someone’s car window in order to rescue a pet or a child? If you will keep reading this brief discussion of Colorado’s vandalism laws and your rights, you will learn the answers to these questions.

How is Vandalism Handled in Colorado?

Under the law in Colorado, vandalism includes criminal mischief as well as defacing or destroying property, landmarks, monuments, or posted notices. The penalties for a vandalism conviction will depend on the value of the property that was damaged or destroyed.

If the damaged or destroyed property was valued at or above $2,000, a vandalism charge is a felony, and a conviction may be penalized with a prison sentence. However, many vandalism crimes are juvenile crimes, and the penalties are different for convicted juvenile offenders.

Juveniles who are convicted of vandalism may be penalized with a sentence that combines probation, restitution, and community service. If your child faces a vandalism charge as a juvenile in the Denver area, take the case immediately to a Denver property crimes lawyer.

Are There Additional Penalties for a Vandalism Conviction?

Along with the criminal penalties, if you are convicted of vandalism, the owner of the vandalized property may also sue you in civil court for compensation. A criminal conviction for vandalism almost ensures such a lawsuit will prevail, and you’ll have to pay for the vandalized property.

Any criminal conviction establishes a criminal record that can make it difficult for someone to find employment or housing, to obtain a loan or public benefits, or to be accepted by certain colleges and universities.

If you hold a professional license in Colorado, a vandalism conviction may prompt disciplinary action by your state professional licensing board, and if you are not a United States citizen, a vandalism conviction – especially a felony conviction – may trigger a deportation proceeding.

What Are the Defenses to a Vandalism Charge?

In Colorado, the crime of vandalism has to be committed knowingly and intentionally. You cannot be guilty of a vandalism charge – although you may be guilty of another crime – if you acted negligently or even recklessly.

If you are charged with vandalism in or near the Denver area, whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony, your Denver vandalism attorney may offer one of the following legal defenses on your behalf:

You had the property owner’s consent for your actions.
An accident caused the damage to the property.
You have been misidentified, and someone else committed the vandalism.
No vandalism was committed, and the allegation against you is fabricated.

Your defense attorney may also seek to have the charge against you reduced by proving that the damaged or destroyed property was not worth what the prosecution claims it was worth.

Can You Break a Car Window to Rescue a Child or a Pet?

Since 2017, it has been legal in Colorado – in specific circumstances – to smash another person’s car window in order to rescue a child or a pet from excessive temperatures. Even at 70 degrees, temperatures inside a locked vehicle can reach dangerous levels within thirty minutes.

Under Colorado law, you may now break a car or truck window in order to rescue a child or a pet provided that:

You reasonably believe the pet or child is in imminent danger.
You have checked to ensure that the vehicle’s doors and windows are locked.
You have made a reasonable effort to locate the owner.
You call the local police, fire, or animal control department before you break a window.

If you legally break a car or truck window in order to rescue a child or a pet, you cannot be sued for damages by the vehicle’s owner in a Colorado civil court.

When Should You Contact a Property Crimes Attorney?

If you’re charged with a vandalism crime, you will need – immediately – the advice and services of a Denver property crimes lawyer. After evaluating your case and your specific circumstances, your lawyer will explain your legal options and develop the best possible defense on your behalf.

If your defense attorney cannot have the vandalism charge against you dropped or dismissed, you may be offered a plea bargain by the prosecutor. If you accept a typical plea bargain, you agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge, and you accept the legal penalties for that lesser charge.

Do not try to act as your own attorney, and do not try to negotiate your own plea deal. The law is too complicated, and too much will be at risk. Instead, let your defense attorney conduct any plea negotiations, and don’t accept any plea offer until you’ve discussed that offer with your attorney.

If you are not guilty of a vandalism charge, and if that charge cannot be dropped or dismissed, you should insist on your right to a jury trial. At that trial, your defense attorney will explain to the jurors what actually happened and why they should find you not guilty of vandalism.

What Else Should You Know About Vandalism?

Colorado’s crime rate so far in 2022 is down from last year’s crime rate, but vandalism is one of the crimes that is increasing. Through the first six months of 2022, vandalism in Colorado is up 2.2 percent over the first six months of 2021.

If you have already been arrested and charged with vandalism or with any other crime in the Denver area, if you are charged with a crime in the future, or if you believe that you are under suspicion for a crime, schedule a consultation at once with a Denver criminal defense attorney.

Dan Murphy
By: Dan Murphy

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy provides clients in the Denver area with aggressive and sympathetic legal representation. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1994 and worked as a public defender before starting his own practice in 1996. He has defended clients accused of the most difficult criminal and alcohol-related charges. He also serves as a Moot Court Judge for Denver-area law students who rely on his mentorship.