Damage to Property as a Juvenile Crime

You return to your car after a long day of work, and you notice that your car has been defaced, a long line has been drawn down the side of your car. As you wonder why your car has been keyed, you notice some teenagers along the road doing the same thing to another car. It seems they have keyed every car along this side of the street. Damage to property, or vandalism, is one of the most common ways a teen offender can act out. Often these teens don’t actually realize what they are doing is a crime, but if caught, they will catch on pretty quick. While the law doesn’t distinguish between vandalism and teen vandalism, if your teen is still considered a juvenile, they will still go through the juvenile court system. Yet, while the punishments for the juvenile court system are often lighter and their record can often be sealed or destroyed later, you still probably don’t want your child to be called a criminal after a conviction.

Juvenile vandalism can be charged for a lot of different acts, including:

  • Keying a car
  • Spray painting graffiti
  • Breaking a window
  • Destroying objects

Teens are notorious for occasionally doing very stupid things without thinking of the consequences. This is exactly what makes vandalism a pretty common juvenile charge. While the punishments are lighter than if your child was an adult, they can still be pretty unpleasant for both parent and child. These punishments include:

  • Restitution and Fines – As part of the punishment of a convicted juvenile for vandalism, the teen will need to not only pay fines imposed by the court, but likely restitution to the owner of the property as well. Often, they say the juvenile will be responsible for the payments, but more often than not, the parents will be on the hook. However, some judges have ordered juveniles to find employment in order to pay restitution.
  • Probation – The probation of a juvenile is often very similar to that of an adult. They are allowed to go to school or work, but also required to meet with a probation officer and go to some sort of counseling. If they fail to meet these terms, they will often face confinement in the form of juvenile detention.
  • Detention – If your teen already has a record of vandalism or other juvenile crimes, it is possible that another conviction will result in their confinement to a juvenile detention facility. These facilities aren’t quite as brutal as adult prison, but if the world was honest, the kids that end up there don’t end up learning good lessons.


If your child was arrested for vandalism, then that alone can make it seem like the state courts have a pretty good case, particularly if they were caught in the act. However, in order to convict on these charges, the prosecution must be able to prove your child had the intent to damage the property.

As an example, if a child fell off their skateboard and crushed a metal trash can by landing on it, they didn’t intend to damage the property, it just happened by accident. You can’t accidentally commit vandalism since accidents in this case can’t be a crime. However, it can be difficult to argue lack of intent if the child was, for another example, caught in the act of spray painting a building. Clearly they intended to do some graffiti and were caught red-handed. Often in these cases, it may be a better idea for the child to show that they are sorry for what they did and that they are seeking counseling so that it doesn’t happen again. In juvenile systems, this is often key to lighter punishments when the evidence of a crime is very strong.

If your child has been arrested for vandalism or any other juvenile crime, contact us today. You don’t want your child to have a record, and neither does the Speas Law Firm. Let us help your teen.