Intentionally vandalizing, desecrating or defacing a place of worship, cemetery, school or government building is not treated like a prank in Pennsylvania’s courts. Kicking in a window at a school or smashing artifacts in a church can lead to an arrest for institutional vandalism – and a felony or misdemeanor charge. If you are questioned by the police for institutional vandalism, it is critical that you hire an experienced property crime lawyer who can provide you with legal advice and the counsel you need.
What is Institutional Vandalism?
In Pennsylvania, you commit institutional vandalism if you knowingly desecrate, vandalize or deface the building, objects inside or grounds of:
- A church, synagogue or any place used for religious worship or purposes
- A cemetery, mortuary or other facility used for burial
- A school, educational facility, community center, municipal building, government building, government vehicle, juvenile detention center or courthouse
It is illegal to carry a spray-paint can, broad-tipped indelible marker or similar marking device onto any of the properties listed above with the intent to deface or vandalize.
If you are convicted of institutional vandalism where the loss will cost more than $5,000 to repair – a third degree felony – you may be punished with up to seven years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
If you are convicted of institutional vandalism where the loss will cost less than $5,000 to repair, you will have a second degree misdemeanor on your permanent criminal record.
A criminal record will impact your ability to obtain or maintain the following:
- Federal student financial aid
- A job in your given industry
- Custody of children or dependents
- Professional licensure