In Georgia, criminal damage to property is the most common property damage crime. The seriousness of the offense, the danger caused by this action, and the amount of damage determine the specific criminal charge and possible penalties if found guilty of this offense.
1st Degree Criminal Damage to Property
You could be charged with criminal damage to property in the 1st degree if the prosecution has probable cause to believe you did one of the following:
1. Knowingly and without authority interfered with property in a way to endanger human life, or
2. Knowingly and without authority and by use of force or violence interfered with the operation of any public communication or transportation system, sewer, drainage, water supply, gas, or other public utility.
First degree criminal damage to property is a felony and carries a potential sentence of 1 to 10 years in prison.
Ref: O.C.G.A. §16-7-22
2nd Degree Criminal Damage to Property
You could be facing 2nd degree criminal damage charges if you:
1. Intentionally damage someone else’s property without their consent and the damage is valued at more than $500, or
2. Recklessly or intentionally, by fire or explosive, damage someone else’s property.
This charge is a felony and has a possibly penalty of 1 to 5 years in prison.
Ref: O.C.G.A. §16-7-23
Georgia Interference with Government Property – Laws
There are two actions that could get you charged with the offense of interference with government property. If you destroy, damage, or deface government property you will be charged with a felony and be sentenced to a potential 1 to 5 years in prison.
If you forcibly interfere with or obstruct traffic into or from government property you will be charged with misdemeanor interference with government property and face up to one year in jail.
Ref: O.C.G.A. §16-7-24
Damaging, Injuring, Interfering with Property of Public Utilities
If you intentionally injure, damage, destroy or interfere with any meters, pipes, lines, wires, or posts, belonging to public utility or municipality, or if you interfere with any service or attempt to divert any services of public utility you could be charged with this misdemeanor.
Damaging, injuring, or interfering with the property of public utilities is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.
Ref: O.C.G.A. §16-7-25
Smash and Grab Thefts
There is a tough new Georgia law for what is known as a “smash and grab” theft.
If you smash into a retail display case, or break through a window or door of a retail store, and steal merchandise, you could be charged with a smash and grab.
If the property damage exceeds more than $500, you could face a mandatory 2 years in jail, if convicted.
More on Georgia theft laws and smash and grabs.