Destroying or Damaging Property

Destroying or Damaging Property

In Victoria, Destroying or Damaging Property is found in section 197 of the Crimes Act 1958. It is a criminal offence that is committed by a person who intentionally or dishonestly destroyed or damaged another person’s property with the intention of endangering someone else’s life or gaining something for himself or for another person.

Have you been accused of Destroying or Damaging Property?

Police Interview
The offence of destroying or damaging property is a broad offence that covers minor property damage to serious arson matters. A police interview for this offence could cover a broad range of allegations and it is important to seek legal advice prior to any police interview. You should only participate in a police interview for this offence after seeking expert legal advice.

If the police wish to interview you to discuss an allegation of Destroying or Damaging Property, you should call us and arrange a conference with a lawyer prior to the interview. It is worth knowing that the Police are trained to ask questions in a way which make you look like you are lying no matter how you answer their questions.

Also, some people decide to have one of our lawyers sit in on the police interview with them because they feel more comfortable having someone there on their side.

Pleading Not Guilty
Destroying or damaging property is a very common offence. Our lawyers have extensive experience dealing with this offence and will explain your prospects of success if you are considering contesting the charge and pleading not guilty. This advice will depend on the evidence in the brief, which our defence lawyers will request from Police. Our defence lawyers are poro-active in their approach to defending charges and will look for evidence which may assist your defence which the police may have over looked during their initial investigation.

If you choose to contest the charge, our lawyers will explain the court process to you and ensure decisions are made to maximise your chances of successfully defending the charge.

Pleading Guilty
If you decide to plead guilty to a charge of Destroying or Damaging Property, our lawyers can help you prepare a thorough plea. Providing restitution to victims in these matters will help at a plea, and our lawyers can help arrange this for you through the appropriate channels. Our lawyers will also explain your circumstances to the presiding Judge or Magistrate and help gather other material to ensure that you get the best possible result in your case. Some things that our lawyers can assist you with include gathering character references, organizing restitution for the damage caused and organizing an expert report.

You should contact us and arrange a conference with one of our lawyers if you are thinking about pleading guilty to this offence.

Sentencing
Sentencing in the higher courts of AustraliaSentencing Statistics Pie Chart for Criminal Damage (Intentionally Destroy or Damage Property) in the Higher CourtsSentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts of AustraliaSentencing Statistics Pie Chart for Intentionally Destroy or Damage Property (Criminal Damage) in the Magistrates'Courts
  • A group of school kids smash some of the windows at their school
  • Someone sets fire to a shed where there are homeless people living inside
  • A woman destroys part of her competitor’s factory

  • You did not destroy or damage property
  • You did not intend to destroy or damage the property
  • You did not intend to endanger the life of someone else
  • You did not gain any benefit
There are other possible defences, depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged offending. Each matter is unique and requires an individual approach and strategy.

Questions that are asked in cases like this:
  • How was the property destroyed or damaged?
  • Can they prove you destroyed or damaged the property?
  • Was anyone’s life endangered?
  • Can they prove you knew someone’s life would be endangered?
  • Was anything gained?
  • Can they prove that you gained anything?

Maximum penalty and court that deals with this charge

The maximum penalty for destroying or damaging property (s197 of the Crimes Act 1958) is level 5 imprisonment (10 years).

The maximum penalty for destroying or damaging property and endangering the life of another person is level 4 imprisonment (15 years); and for gaining a benefit is level 5 imprisonment (10 years).

If the property is destroyed or damaged by fire, the offence is arson and the maximum penalty is level 4 imprisonment (15 years).

This charge may be heard in the Magistrates’ Court or County Court.

What is the legal definition of Destroying or Damaging Property ?
Intentionally destroying or damaging property belonging to another person. Endangering the life of another person; or gaining a benefit from destroying or damaging property belonging to another person.

“Did you damage or destroy someone else’s property?”

The Law
The section that covers this offence is section 197 of the Crimes Act 1958.