In Oklahoma, vandalism is considered a form of “malicious mischief” that involves intentional damage to property. One of the most common types of vandalism is graffiti, which is generally created for one of three reasons:
Of course, graffiti is not the only type of vandalism. Other acts can include slashing someone’s tires, keying a car, egging a house, or various other intentional acts that result in property damage.
But not every act of vandalism is intended to cause real and lasting damage, and not every act of vandalism is committed out of hate or spite. Often—especially as a juvenile crime—what the courts call “vandalism” and “malicious mischief” was intended as a prank meant to be funny, not an act committed out of malice.
Still, when property damage results from an intentional act, a person can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense. Hiring an attorney can help you or your child defend against criminal vandalism charges.
Often, a person who commits an act of vandalism must gain entrance to a building, vehicle, or structure without permission. Unlawful entry into a home, building, or structure—including a vending machine—is prosecuted as either burglary or breaking and entering.
Oklahoma’s second degree burglary law is found in 21 O.S. § 1435, which reads as follows:
Every person who breaks and enters any building or any part of any building, room, booth, tent, railroad car, automobile, truck, trailer, vessel or other structure or erection, in which any property is kept, or breaks into or forcibly opens, any coin operated or vending machine or device with intent to steal any property therein or to commit any felony, is guilty of burglary in the second degree.
A person who unlawfully enters a structure with intent to steal will be charged with second degree burglary, a felony punishable by 2 to 7 years in prison. If theft occurs or is attempted during an act of vandalism involving breaking and entering, the defendants face felony conviction and the possibility of several years in prison.
Sometimes, a person will gain unlawful entry into a structure without the intent to steal, but with the intent to commit mischief or vandalism. This is often the case in high school “Senior pranks,” where students enter the school after hours without permission to create some kind of havoc. In these types of pranks, students might not realize that their acts are illegal; what is intended to be funny quickly becomes very serious as students find themselves under arrest for breaking and entering.
Oklahoma’s breaking and entering law (21 O.S. § 1438) reads as follows:
A. Every person who, under circumstances not amounting to any burglary, enters any building or part of any building, booth, tent, warehouse, railroad car, vessel, or other structure or erection with intent to commit any felony, larceny, or malicious mischief, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
B. Every person who, without the intention to commit any crime therein, shall willfully and intentionally break and enter into any building, trailer, vessel or other premises used as a dwelling without the permission of the owner or occupant thereof, except in the cases and manner allowed by law, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Whether or not a person has the intent to commit a crime or vandalism upon entry, entering any building, structure, or vehicle without permission in an act that falls short of burglary is a misdemeanor punishable by a jail term of up to one year.
In general, vandalism or “malicious mischief” that does not involve breaking and entering is likewise prosecuted as a misdemeanor. This can include damaging, defacing, or obstructing bridges and roads; stealing or defacing road signs; picking someone else’s flowers without permission; destroying or damaging landscaping; dumping on public or private property without the consent of the owner; and maliciously defacing the property of another.
Maliciously defacing the property of another (21 O.S. § 1760) may be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony:
According to this statute, vandalism would generally be prosecuted as a misdemeanor; however, the costs of replacement, repair, and clean-up after an act of vandalism can quickly exceed $1,000, making the act a felony.
Furthermore, state law allows the owner of the property to sue the person who committed the vandalism, and that person is liable for three times the damages incurred by the property owner.
If you or your child is facing criminal charges for an act of vandalism or malicious mischief, you likely have several questions about the court process, the possible consequences, and your options for defense. Call (405) 417-3842 to schedule a free, confidential consultation with a lawyer who can give you the answers you need.