The Law Firm of

Erin L.T. Ranney, PLLC

Attorneys At Law

Phone:   (804) 318-1151  or (804) 212-5252

Taking criminal and traffic defense cases in Chesterfield, Colonial Heights, Richmond, Henrico, New Kent, Hanover, Caroline, Hopewell, Prince George, Dinwiddie, Petersburg, Emporia, Greensville, Sussex, and across Virginia


Providing counsel on family law matters, including divorce, custody, visitation, support, and adoption


Providing estate planning services to those in Virginia, including wills, trusts, power of attorney, and advanced medical directives

Criminal Law Spotlight - September 2017

Vandalism/Destruction of Property

Vandalism - Also known as Property Damage


The crime of Vandalism is one that most people experience at some point in there lives.  Vandalism comes in varying levels and can have special punishments depending on the location of the vandalism, the intent, and the level of destruction.  Vandalism can also be called "Damage to Property" or "Destruction of Property".  There is also a form of property damage specific to motor vehicles.

18.2-137. Injuring, etc., any property, monument, etc.

A. If any person unlawfully destroys, defaces, damages or removes without the intent to steal any property, real or personal, not his own, or breaks down, destroys, defaces, damages or removes without the intent to steal, any monument or memorial for war veterans described in  15.2-1812, any monument erected for the purpose of marking the site of any engagement fought during the War between the States, or for the purpose of designating the boundaries of any city, town, tract of land, or any tree marked for that purpose, he shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor; provided that the court may, in its discretion, dismiss the charge if the locality or organization responsible for maintaining the injured property, monument, or memorial files a written affidavit with the court stating it has received full payment for the injury.

B. If any person intentionally causes such injury, he shall be guilty of (i) a Class 1 misdemeanor if the value of or damage to the property, memorial or monument is less than $1,000 or (ii) a Class 6 felony if the value of or damage to the property, memorial or monument is $1,000 or more. The amount of loss caused by the destruction, defacing, damage or removal of such property, memorial or monument may be established by proof of the fair market cost of repair or fair market replacement value. Upon conviction, the court may order that the defendant pay restitution.

(Code 1950,  18.1-172; 1960, c. 358; 1975, cc. 14, 15, 598; 1990, c. 933; 1999, c. 625.)


18.2-138. Damaging public buildings, etc.; penalty.

Any person who willfully and maliciously (i) breaks any window or door of the Capitol, any courthouse, house of public worship, college, school house, city or town hall, or other public building or library, (ii) damages or defaces the Capitol or any other public building or any statuary in the Capitol, on the Capitol Square, or in or on any other public buildings or public grounds, or (iii) destroys any property in any of such buildings shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony if damage to the property is $1,000 or more or a Class 1 misdemeanor if the damage is less than $1,000.

Any person who willfully and unlawfully damages or defaces any book, newspaper, magazine, pamphlet, map, picture, manuscript, or other property located in any library, reading room, museum, or other educational institution shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony if damage to the property is $1,000 or more or a Class 1 misdemeanor if the damage is less than $1,000.

(Code 1950,  18.1-177; 1960, c. 358; 1975, cc. 14, 15; 1990, c. 454.)

18.2-146. Breaking, injuring, defacing, destroying or preventing the operation of vehicle, aircraft or boat.

Any person who shall individually or in association with one or more others willfully break, injure, tamper with or remove any part or parts of any vehicle, aircraft, boat or vessel for the purpose of injuring, defacing or destroying said vehicle, aircraft, boat or vessel, or temporarily or permanently preventing its useful operation, or for any purpose against the will or without the consent of the owner of such vehicle, aircraft, boat or vessel, or who shall in any other manner willfully or maliciously interfere with or prevent the running or operation of such vehicle, aircraft, boat or vessel, shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

(Code 1950,  18.1-166; 1960, c. 358; 1975, cc. 14, 15.)


Important points:

- Destruction of property does NOT require that the Commonwealth prove that the property belonged to a specific person - just that it did not belong to the person who is accused of damaging it.  The converse is also true - you may destroy your own property if it is exclusively yours.

- The statute tells you how the value is to be measured - by fair market value for repair or replacement.  Remember that the criminal law only aims to make the victim whole, it does not allow for compensation beyond that.  However, criminal prosecution does not prevent a civil suit for damage to property.

- The statute requires that the person intentionally damage property.  However, this may include the commission of a lawful act done in such a way that it is criminally negligent.  Crowder v. Commonwealth, 16 Va. App. 382 (1993).  In other words, the person must have known the potential consequences of their actions.

- The Code section that deals with the willful prevention of operation of a vehicle may frequently be charged in combination with destruction of property.  This happens where the damage constitutes anything that makes the vehicle even temporarily inoperable.  Example: putting sugar in the gas tank.



Remember, destruction of property is a very serious crime.  If you or someone you love has been charged with this crime, or any crime in Virginia, call me today to set up an appointment for a free consultation.

Offense Facts


Felony or misdemeanor  - both defined by statute.

Maximum punishment:

Felony - 5 years in prison and/or $2500 fine

Misdemeanor - 12 months in jail and/or $2500 fine

Interesting Facts:  The issue of value of the damage will frequently be the most litigated issue in a case.