Criminal Damage to Property 1st Degree

According to Georgia Code § 16-7-22, a person commits criminal damage to property in the first degree when they:

  • Knowingly and without authority interfere with any property in a manner that endangers human life, or
  • Knowingly and without authority, by force, violence, or electronic means, interfere with the operation of any critical infrastructure or vital public service, for example the water supply gas power grid.

Examples of first-degree criminal damage to property are interfering with public communication systems, transportation, sewerage, water supply, gas, power, or other public utilities, and damaging property in a way that puts people’s lives at risk.

Georgia criminal damage to property 1st degree lawyers Larry Kohn, Cory Yager, and Bubba Head will meet with you during a free lawyer consultation to explain this serious felony charge.

A Georgia damage to property charge case involves 3 key facts:

  1. The person commits the offense which must be done knowingly and without authority.
  2. It must either endanger human life or through force or violence interfere with critical infrastructure/vital public services (drainage water supply gas).
  3. Can involve physical damage or electronic interference (like hacking into the power company’s computer system to intentionally damage the power grid).

Conviction Penalties for 1st Degree Criminal Damage to Property

This is classified as a felony offense in Georgia and means a prison sentence of not less than 1 year nor more than 10 years. For interference with critical infrastructure or vital public services: the incarceration term will be not less than 2 years in prison nor more than 20 years.

It is considered more serious than Criminal Damage to Property in the Second Degree. The key difference is the element of endangering human life or interfering with critical infrastructure/vital services. This crime may be charged alongside other offenses like arson, burglary or criminal trespassing depending on the circumstances

This offense of criminal damage is treated seriously in Georgia due to its potential to endanger lives or disrupt essential public services. The severity of the punishment reflects the gravity of being charged with criminal damage in the eyes of the law.

Common Defenses for Criminal Damage to Property in Georgia

If you are facing charges for criminal damage to property in Georgia, here are the most frequently used defenses:

1. Lack of Intent

Description: Argue that the damage was accidental and not intentional.

Application: This defense is applicable if you can demonstrate that you did not knowingly or willfully cause the damage. For example, if the damage occurred due to an accident or negligence rather than a deliberate act.

2. Mistaken Identity

Description: Claim that you were wrongly identified as the person who caused the damage.

Application: This defense is useful if there is evidence that someone else committed the act or if there is a lack of reliable identification. Witness misidentification can be challenged through alibis and other evidence.

3. Consent

Description: Show that the property owner gave you permission to perform the actions that led to the damage.

Application: If you can prove that the property owner consented to your actions, such as cutting down trees or making modifications, this can negate the criminal charge. For example, if the owner allowed you to remove certain items or make changes to the property.

4. Self-Defense or Defense of Others

Description: Argue that the damage was caused while protecting yourself or others from harm.

Application: If the property damage occurred as a result of actions taken to prevent imminent harm to yourself or others, this defense can justify your actions. For example, breaking a window to escape a dangerous situation.

5. Lack of Evidence

Description: Challenge the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence.

Application: If the prosecution cannot provide enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime, you can argue for dismissal. This includes questioning the credibility of witnesses and the validity of physical evidence.

6. Value of Damage

Description: Dispute the valuation of the damage to reduce the severity of the charge.

Application: If the prosecution claims the damage exceeds a certain monetary threshold, you can present evidence to show that the actual damage is less. This can potentially reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor or even result in a lesser charge like criminal trespass.

7. Procedural Defenses

Description: Argue that your legal rights were violated during the investigation or arrest.

Application: This includes improper search and seizure, lack of Miranda warnings, or other procedural errors that can result in the exclusion of evidence or dismissal of charges.

8. Alibi

Description: Provide evidence that you were not at the scene when the damage occurred.

Application: If you can prove that you were elsewhere at the time of the incident, this can serve as a strong defense. This might include witness testimony, video footage, or other forms of evidence supporting your whereabouts.

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