There are several laws in Georgia intended to protect property in the interest of human life and safety. This blog article serves to explore the nature of these offenses and discuss the possible punishment if convicted.
Criminal Damage to Property in the First Degree
O.C.G.A. § 16-7-22 defines the offense as when a person:
(1) Knowingly and without authority interferes with any property in a manner so as to endanger human life; or
(2) Knowingly and without authority and by force or violence interferes with the operation of any system of public communication, public transportation, sewerage, drainage, water supply, gas, power, or other public utility service or with any constituent property thereof.
Criminal damage to property in the first degree is a crime against the State involving the unauthorized interference with property in a manner that endangers human life. The phrase requiring defendant’s interference with the property be done “in a manner so as to endanger human life” means reckless endangerment rather than actual endangerment. As a result, successful prosecution of this offense does not require proof that the person actually injured the owner of the property. Furthermore, the State does not have to prove value or legal title of the property. It is enough the prosecution prove the person had a legal right to possess or occupy the property that was damaged. Some examples of this offense includes: firing gunshots into an apartment, dwelling, or vehicle, setting fire to a building, and throwing a rock at vehicle from overpass. It is important to note that this offense may serve as the basis for felony murder.
Any person convicted of this offense is guilty of a felony and may be imprisoned between 1 and 10 years.
Criminal Damage to Property in the Second Degree
O.C.G.A. § 16-7-23 provides, [a] person commits the offense of criminal damage to property in the second degree when he:
(1) Intentionally damages any property of another person without his consent and the damage thereto exceeds $500.00; or
(2) Recklessly or intentionally, by means of fire or explosive, damages property of another person.
Criminal damage to property in second degree is a general intent crime, which requires only a general intent to do the act, i.e., damaging another person’s property. Under section (1), the value of property is required to be proven and the value has to be greater than $500. In assessing value, the focus is on the value of the tangible item itself, not the total expenses of the owner in connection with property damage. Value does not have to be proven, however, if charged under section (2).
A person convicted of criminal damage to property in the second degree is guilty of a felony and may be imprisoned for 1 to 5 years.
If you or a loved one are facing criminal prosecution, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation. Our firm has specialized knowledge and experience in handling Criminal Damage to Property cases in multiple jurisdictions across Georgia.