It happens.

You made a mistake, and now you are facing criminal property damage charges.

A celebration with friends got a little out of hand and some store windows were broken. A simple prank resulted in some damage to a neighbor’’s property. Maybe your emotions got the best of you and you damaged your ex’s car. Perhaps you were hanging out with the wrong crowd at the wrong time and are now being accused of vandalism or malicious injury.

In a situation like this, it is normal to feel overwhelmed and confused. You need clarification on what you have been accused of and what exactly the language of the law is saying. Lastly, you may be wondering whether or not you will need to serve time in jail for your criminal offense or, will a fine be sufficient.

As you prepare to fight your charges, you need to learn what all this could mean to you and how it could impact your future.

Malicious Injury & Vandalism in South Carolina

In South Carolina, a person commits the crime of malicious injury, also known as vandalism, if the person intentionally damages someone else’s property without his or her permission. “Property” includes buildings, animals, land or any other personal belongings.

Malicious injury is also called malicious mischief, criminal mischief, or property damage. It does not matter whether the property you damaged was public or private, you can still be charged with malicious injury. For example, breaking someone’s window, keying a car, or egging a building are all considered malicious injury under South Carolina law.

Malicious Injury

For you to be accused of malicious injury/vandalism, an action of your doing must have caused the resulting property damage, even if you did not mean to cause the property damage. You just need to have intentionally acted in a way that ended up causing the damage.

For example, if your purchase gets stuck in a vending machine and you bang on the glass and end up shattering it, you could be charged with vandalism. Even though you did not mean to break the glass, your intentional actions—banging on it—resulted in it breaking.

The consequences you may face for a malicious injury charge are listed in the table below and depend on the value of the item or items damaged.

Value of Property Charge Fine Jail
$2,000 or less Misdemeanor Up to $1,000 Up to 30 days
$2,001 to $9,999 Felony At the discretion of the court Up to 5 years
$10,000 or more Felony At the discretion of the court Up to 10 years
*Note: Can receive a fine, jail time, or BOTH

If you are under the age of 18 when the vandalism occurs, you will face the same charge that an adult would face. However, your case will most likely be heard in the juvenile justice system, resulting in the consequences of your charge differing from the ones listed above.

Illegal Graffiti Vandalism

Even though placing graffiti on property belonging to others is a type of vandalism, there is a separate charge for graffiti in South Carolina.

Under South Carolina law, illegal graffiti vandalism is defined as “an inscription, writing, drawing, marking, or design that is painted, sprayed, etched, scratched, or otherwise placed on structures, buildings, dwellings, statues, monuments, fences, vehicles, or other similar materials that are on public or private property and that are publicly viewable, without the consent of the owner, manager, or agent in charge of the property.”

In other words, if you make a mark on property that belongs to someone else, you will have committed illegal graffiti vandalism. This charge will apply regardless of whether you spray paint a building or scratch your name on a car.

Your consequence will depend on whether you have had prior offenses within the last 10 years, as this is the “look-back” period for illegal graffiti vandalism in South Carolina. Therefore, only offenses that occur within this time frame will count as prior offenses.

Consequences for illegal graffiti vandalism are listed in the table below.

Offense Charge Fine Jail
First Misdemeanor Up to $1,000 Up to 30 days
Second Misdemeanor Up to $2,500 Up to 1 year
Third Misdemeanor Up to $3,000 Up to 3 years
*Note: Can receive a fine or jail time, not both

The court may also require you to remove the graffiti, pay to have the graffiti removed, or make further restitution at the discretion of the court.

Malicious Injury to a Place of Worship

If you damage a place of worship, you could face a specialized charge, called malicious injury to a place of worship.

Under South Carolina law, you can receive this charge if you “wilfully, unlawfully, and maliciously vandalize, deface, damage, or destroy or attempt to vandalize, deface, damage, or destroy any place, structure, or building of worship or aid, agree with, employ, or conspire with any person to do or cause [this] to be done.”

You can be charged with malicious injury to a place of worship if you yourself damage the place of worship or, if you participate in the planning of damage to a place of worship.

Consequences for this charge are listed in the table below.

Charge <Fine Jail
Felony Up to $10,000 6 months to 10 years
*Note: Can receive a fine, jail time, or BOTH

Malicious Injury to School Property

If you damage school property or the building itself, you could be charged with malicious injury to school property. The same rules apply to this charge as those defined for the other forms of malicious injury. Present intent to damage the school property is not necessary to receive this charge.

The consequences you may face for malicious injury to school property are listed in the table below.

Charge Fine Jail
Misdemeanor Up to $100 Up to 30 days With “hard labor”
*Note: Can receive a fine or jail time, not both

If you receive jail time as a result of this charge, you will be required to perform “hard labor on the public works of the county.” This might include work that will repair the damage you did or improve the school property in some way.

Wondering what to do next?

If you have been charged with criminal property damage in South Carolina, the penalties can be devastating. Along with incurring large fines and jail time, you could end up with a criminal record. Having a criminal record can impact your employment, your ability to rent a place, and your educational options. The only way to prevent this is to fight your charges.

To have the best chance of getting out of your charges, or at least limiting your consequences, you need a criminal defense attorney on your side.

Do not wait until it is too late. Contact us today at 843-853-3310 or through our online contact form to discuss your case.

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