Charged with Criminal Damage?
Criminal Damage - the Prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt, that you destroyed or damaged property which belonged to another; that you intended to do so; and that you did not have a lawful excuse for your actions.
There are other related but different offences in the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) that you could be charged with depending on the facts such as:
- Criminal Damage Intending to Endanger Life
- Criminal Damage with a View to Gain
- Arson Causing Death
- Intentionally or Recklessly Causing a Bushfire
If the value of the damage is small you might be charged with Wilful Damage under the Summary Offences Act 1996 (Vic).
What is a Lawful Excuse?
The following are examples of lawful excuses:
- That you believed the property belonged solely to you
- That you believed you had a right in the property that authorised you to engage in the conduct
- That you believed that the people who were required to consent had consented to your conduct; or would have consented to your conduct, if they knew the circumstances
- That you believed your conduct was necessary to avoid damage to the property
There are further requirements such as your belief being honestly held or reasonable. If you think you might have such a defence, it is highly recommended you speak to an experienced criminal lawyer.
Other Possible Defences
Self-Defence – where you believed on reasonable grounds, that it was necessary to damage or destroy property belonging to another person, in order to defend yourself or another person.
Mental Impairment – if at the time you committed the act, you were suffering from a mental impairment that had the effect that you either did not know the nature and quality of what you were doing or did not know that your conduct was wrong.
Between 2011 and 2014, in the Magistrates’ Court charges of Criminal Damage resulted in the following sentences:
- Imprisonment in 16.9% of cases
- a Community Correction Order in 26% of cases
- a Suspended Sentence (which is no longer available) in 10% of cases
- Good Behaviour Bond / Dismissal / Discharge in 19.4% of cases
- a Fine in 21.4% of cases
The facts of your case including the amount of damage you caused, the reason you caused the damage, and the quality of the plea made on your behalf make a significant difference to the penalty you will receive.