You thought it would be a really good joke. You and your buddies spray painted your team’s logo on a rival school’s bus. Or maybe you set off some fireworks in the neighbor’s yard one night. But instead, you blew up his bushes.

Now you are charged with a crime. What is criminal damage to property? What can happen to you? What can you do?

In Illinois, you commit criminal damage to property if you knowingly damage any property of another. This includes setting fire to or setting off explosives on another’s property, injuring their animals or depositing something with an offensive smell. Criminal property damage also includes shooting guns at a railroad train, and tampering with fire hydrants or fire equipment. You may also be charged with knowingly damaging property with the intent of defrauding an insurer.

The charges and punishment depend on what you did, where you did it and how much damage it caused. For most categories, charges range from a Class A Misdemeanor (up to 1 year in jail) for damage under $300 to a Class 2 Felony (3 to 7 years in prison) for damages over $100,000. (UPDATE: As of January 1, 2017, the amount required to increase a charge from a misdemeanor to a felony will be $500.) Messing with fire equipment or a hydrant is a Class B Misdemeanor (up to 6 months). Your charges can also be upgraded if the damage involved a school, place of worship, a farm, or to a memorial for police, firefighters, National Guardsman or veterans. Shooting at a train is a Class 4 felony and so is injuring animals if the damage is under $10,000.

If you are charged with criminal damage to property, do not speak to a third party or the police about your case. Trying to explain yourself may end up giving the state’s attorney the proof they need to convict you as well as restricting any potential defense.

Contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney will review your case for the best possible defense. As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you act knowingly? Did you have permission from the owner to create the damage? Can the state prove it was you? Can they prove the value of the damage?

Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a better plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

Source: Criminal Damage to Property.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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