While property damage and tampering are related crimes, the two are governed by different statutes. While both are serious crimes, tampering has the possibility of more severe penalties. Below is a description of how these two crimes differ and what makes each a first degree or second degree violation.
Property Damage in the First and Second Degree
A person can be found guilty of property damage in the first degree in the state of Missouri if the government can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual “knowingly damage[d] the property of another” causing damage that exceeds $750.00. Property damage in the first degree is a class D felony. If the value of the damaged property is less than $750.00, and the government proves that it was knowingly done by the defendant, the individual is guilty of property damage in the second degree. This is a class B misdemeanor. Obviously, the value placed on the damaged property can sometimes play a very significant role on whether a defendant was “overcharged.”
Tampering in the First Degree
As defined, tampering in the first degree is a little more technical than property damage. According to § 569.080 RSMo. an individual commits tampering in the first degree if:
“1) He or she for the purpose of causing a substantial interruption or impairment of a service rendered to the public by a utility or by an institution providing health or safety protection, damages or tampers with property or facilities of such a utility or institution, and thereby causes substantial interruption or impairment of service; or
2) He or she knowingly receives, possesses, sells, alters, defaces, destroys or unlawfully operates an automobile, airplane, motorcycle, motorboat or other motor- propelled vehicle without the consent of the owner thereof.”
In Missouri a conviction for tampering in the first degree is a class C felony.
Tampering in the Second Degree
The most common ways a person commits the crime of tampering in the second degree are if for the purpose of causing substantial inconvenience he or she tampers with property; unlawfully riding in another person’s motor vehicle; or tampering with any meter of an electric, gas, steam or water utility in order to prevent proper measuring of the relevant utility.
Tampering in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor. However, it can be prosecuted as a class C felony if there is a prior conviction of tampering with a utility.
After review of the relevant statutes, it is clear that tampering and property damage have some overlaps but for the most part are quite different. One of those overlaps is where tampering in the second degree is defined as causing substantial inconvenience by tampering with property. Regardless of which crime an individual is charged with, it is important to have an experienced St. Louis criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights and make sure the prosecution didn’t overcharge. The St. Louis criminal defense attorneys of Henderson & Waterkotte, P.C. will aggressively fight to protect your interests. Call us today to schedule your free consultation.