What does it mean when a neighbor accuses you of vandalizing his or her fence? How can you defend yourself against those accusations? These are some of the questions that may be going through your mind if you have been charged with vandalism.
Vandalism is a criminal offense, and it means that your neighbor is accusing you of marring, defacing or damaging his or her fence. Here are a few defenses you can rely on to escape those charges:
It Is Your Fence
One of the elements of vandalism is that the defendant must have damaged another person's property; you can't be accused of vandalizing your own property. Therefore, you can escape the criminal charges if you can prove that you own the damaged fence.
Obviously, you can't raise such a defense if the fence is clearly on your neighbor's property. However, if it lies between your respective properties, and there is a dispute or confusion on who owns it, then you may try the defense. Of course, you will have to prove that the fence is yours before the criminal charges can be dropped.
You Had the Neighbor's Consent
Secondly, a vandalism charge can only hold if you acted without the property owner's consent. Therefore, if your neighbor knew and consented to the destruction, then he or she can't turn around and accuse you of vandalism
Consider an example in which your neighbor wants to take advantage of your DIY painting skills and gives you a gig to paint his or her fence. If your painting skills turn out to be less than satisfactory, then the neighbor cannot turn the tables on you and accuse you of vandalism.
It Was an Accident
Another useful defense is to prove that the damage was accidental. Accidents do happen, and the courts know this. For example, if you were painting your roof and the paint accidentally spilled on your neighbor's fence, then it cannot be considered vandalism. You may still have to pay for the restoration of the damaged fence, but you will escape the criminal penalties of vandalism (that may include monetary fine, community service and even jail time).
Depending on your state's laws, vandalism may be a misdemeanor or a felony charge. Even if it is considered a misdemeanor, there may be aggravating circumstances that may elevate it to a felony. For example, you may be charged with a felony if the state thinks that your acts were racially motivated or gang related. Clearly, you need the help of an experienced attorney to help you avoid these charges and their consequences. To speak with an attorney or learn more, contact a firm such as Marberry Law Firm, P.C.