What is Criminal Damage in Arizona? Criminal damage is either a misdemeanor or felony. This is a serious offense that may result in significant legal consequences, including incarceration, fines and restitution. In addition, criminal damage is a “domestic violence” eligible offense per A.R.S. 13-3601(A). Indeed, the domestic violence designation imposes additional consequences upon a convicted person and can have impacts on a person’s life. In its most basic form, this offense involves breaking property or items of another. Specifically, Criminal damage also includes graffiti cases, or tampering/damaging utilities.

Criminal Damage Elements

The State must prove crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. Indeed, it must prove every element of a criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Arizona Revised Statute § 13-1602 spells out criminal damage elements:

  1. Recklessly defacing property of another
  2. Tampering recklessly with property of another so as substantially to impair its function or value
  3. Recklessly damaging property of a utility
  4. Parking any vehicle recklessly in such a manner as to deprive livestock of access to the only reasonably available water
  5. Recklessly drawing or inscribing a message, slogan, sign or symbol made on any public or private building, structure or surface. (In the most basic terms–This statute criminalizes “graffiti”.)
  6. Intentionally tampering with utility property.

Requires an Intentional or Reckless Mental State

Criminal damage requires either an intentional or reckless mental state. Indeed, intentional behavior is obvious. However, “reckless” behavior is not so clear. Arizona Revised Statute 13-105 defines criminal recklessness. A person acts recklessly when aware of, but consciously disregards, a substantial and unjustifiable risk. Specifically, the risk must constitute a gross deviation from the standard of care. Simply put, one acts recklessly when they know a substantial and unjustifiable risk may occur, but they do it anyway.

Requires Damage to “Property of Another”

In addition, Criminal Damage in Arizona requires damage to property belonging to another. The other party could be a private citizen, business or government. Indeed, it is Criminal Damage even if the defendant has an interest or ownership in the property. A couple of examples illustrate this difference:

  • The defendant and person A own a vehicle together. The defendant becomes upset and recklessly causes damage to the vehicle. In this example, criminal damage is the charge despite the defendant’s partial ownership. Indeed, “property of another” includes property the defendant owns along with another person.
  • The defendant owns a vehicle fully. The defendant becomes upset and causes damage to the vehicle. Criminal damage is not correct because the property fully belongs to the defendant. Indeed, it is not property of another. However, the behavior could be disorderly conduct if it occurs in front of another person and disturbs that person’s peace.

Legal Consequences of Criminal Damage

Criminal damage legal consequences depends on the amount of loss. Indeed, this dictates felony or misdemeanor charges. Specifically, it is a misdemeanor when the loss is $1,000 or less. A misdemeanor criminal damage conviction may result in up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.

However, property damage resulting in more than $1000 is a felony in Arizona. The severity of the felony charge will depend on the value of the property damage, as follows:

  • If the property damage exceeds $1,000 but is less than $2,000 the offense is a class 6 felony; which can result in up to 2 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
  • Value of the property damage is $2,000 or more but less than $10,000, the offense is a class 5 felony; which can result in up to 2.5 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
  • If the property damage is $10,000 or more, the offense is a class 4 felony; which can result in up to 3.75 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.

In addition to these legal consequences, a criminal damage conviction can also result in a restitution order. A restitution order may require the defendant to pay for the cost of repairing or replacing the damaged property. This can be a significant financial burden for the defendant, particularly in cases where the property damage is substantial.

Criminal Damage by Domestic Violence in Arizona

Criminal damage is a domestic violence eligible offense per A.R.S. 13-3601(A). Domestic violence situations occur when the defendant and victim know each other due to some type of familial or “roommate-type” relationship. Criminal damage by domestic violence cases often involve “property of another” issues. As discussed above, “property of another” means any property another may own, even if the defendant has partial ownership. For example, a person damaging their home is committing criminal damage if another has joint ownership in the home. However, if a person is the sole owner, he/she can damage their own property as much as they want. As long as it does not disturb another’s peace. Often times a person angrily destroying their own property may do so in front of another. The state will likely charge disorderly conduct for that behavior.

Consequences of Criminal Damage by Domestic Violence convictions are not a joke. In fact, all domestic violence offenses carry serious consequences. These consequences include mandatory minimum of 26 domestic violence classes, protective orders, and loss of firearm rights. Moreover, a person faces challenges in returning home. Or, having contact with family members for a period of time after a domestic violence conviction.

A domestic violence conviction also renders a person a State “prohibited possessor” per Arizona law during the probationary term. However, certain domestic violence convictions will render a person a Federal “prohibited possessor” for life. It is important to know firearm restrictions after a domestic violence conviction. In addition, people convicted of domestic violence offenses face hurdles in finding employment or places to live. Indeed, punishment severity depends on the unique circumstances of each domestic violence case, damage amount and the defendant’s prior record, if any.

Defenses to Criminal Damage Charges

It is important to know there are defenses available to criminal damage charges. Following are some common defenses to criminal damage charges in Arizona:

  1. Lack of intent: Did not intend to damage or destroy property. No reckless intent and reckless behavior did not cause property damage.
  2. Destruction of sole property: Criminal damage relates to “property of another.” This includes property a defendant has an interest in. However, a person may destroy their own sole property, as long as another person has no interest in it. Although destroying sole property is not criminal damage, the behavior itself may still be disorderly conduct if committed recklessly in front of another person.
  3. Mistaken Identity: State must prove identity beyond a reasonable doubt (“firmly convinced”). The State’s identification comes through testimony (either through a witness identification or videos/photographs).
  4. Self-defense: If one damages property in order to protect themselves or someone else from harm, one may be able to use self-defense to argue actions were justified.

An experienced Criminal Damage attorney should explore a case for defenses. Indeed, a person lacking criminal intent while breaking an item is not guilty of Criminal Damage. Only “reckless” behavior, not accidents, rise to the level of Criminal Damage in Arizona. For example, a person may break a window while knocking in a non-angry or non-harassing way to get someone’s attention. Is this a crime or a pure accident? Likely accidental, non-criminal behavior. On the other hand, a person knocking on a window in anger/frustration or trying to annoy another causing it to break smacks more of a crime than accident.


In addition, litigation arises under the element “property of another.” This term includes property a suspect has interest in with another person. Under this scenario, and as discussed above, a person is committing criminal damage even if they are part owner. However, it is not Criminal Damage for a person to break their own property. However, other charges, such as Disorderly Conduct may arise depending on whether witnesses are present to observe the behavior.

Huss Law, PLLC as Your Arizona Criminal Damage Attorney

Huss Law, PLLC has been handling criminal damage and criminal damage domestic violence cases for over 20 years. The firm’s founder, Jeremy L. Huss, prosecuted criminal damage and domestic violence cases for nearly 13 years. Mr. Huss is familiar with both the investigation and prosecution of criminal damage cases. Indeed, he worked closely with law enforcement for over a decade investigating and prosecuting these offenses. And has provided high-level criminal defense for nearly a decade.

Mr. Huss has been lead counsel in countless criminal damage and domestic violence cases as both a prosecutor and defense attorney. This experience separates Huss Law from other criminal defense law firms. Moreover, Mr. Huss has an incredible attention to detail and personally reviews all cases in his firm, including criminal damage and domestic violence charges. A person charged with criminal damage or criminal damage by domestic violence should consult with an experienced attorney. Huss Law PLLC has significant experience in both criminal damage and domestic violence related offenses. Call Huss Law Immediately for a Free Consultation!

Shattered Window behind School Bus which may have been caused recklessly by criminal damage
Categories:: Criminal Defense, Domestic Violence, General