Dec 6

Criminal damage to property is an Illinois crime that addresses intentionally destructive behavior. This offense applies whenever an offender destroys another person’s property recklessly or knowingly. In these cases, Illinois mandates an escalating penalty structure with confinement periods and hefty criminal fines. 

Illinois Definition of Criminal Damage to Property

The Illinois definition of criminal damage to property appears under 720 ILCS 5/21-1. This section makes it unlawful for any person to:

  • Knowingly damage another person’s property;
  • Recklessly use fire or explosives to damage another person’s property;
  • Knowingly start a fire on another person’s property;
  • Knowingly inflict harm on another person’s domestic animal;
  • Knowingly install a stink bomb or similar device on another person’s property;
  • Knowingly damage property with the intent of committing insurance fraud;
  • Knowingly discharge a firearm at a train; 
  • Knowingly damages or disrupts any fire hydrant or firefighting equipment; or
  • Intentionally opens a fire hydrant without proper authorization. 

It is vital to note that Illinois law applies a state of mind requirement to criminal damage to property crimes. The perpetrator must act knowingly, recklessly, or intentionally in order to face charges for this offense. A mere mistake or error is not likely to rise to the level of criminal damage to property. 

Furthermore, Section 21-1 establishes an affirmative defense to criminal damage to property. If the property owner consented to the damage in question, it does not necessarily qualify as a criminal violation of Illinois law. 

Illinois Punishment for Criminal Damage to Property

Section 21-1 also details the punishment structure for criminal damage to property. The exact criminal penalties fluctuate wildly based on the type of offense, value of property damaged, and several other factors. 

Any person who knowingly damages fire equipment or intentionally opens a fire hydrant is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor. If convicted, the offender can face a maximum sentence of six months in jail and $1,500 in fines. 

On the other hand, injuring another person’s domestic animal — if that animal is worth less than $10,000 — or discharging a firearm at a train is a Class 4 felony. If convicted, the offender can face a maximum sentence of three years in prison and $25,000 in fines. 

In all other cases of criminal damage to property, the punishment depends on the value of the damaged property in question. If the damage does not exceed $500, it qualifies as a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, the offender can face a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and $2,500 in fines. If the damage exceeds $500, however, the offender can face felony charges and increasingly harsh criminal penalties.

Do You Need Legal Help?

No matter what the criminal offense, all charges are serious. A sound strategy and an aggressive defense are essential for a positive outcome. To protect your rights in such situations, it is highly advisable to retain legal counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney.

The Prior Law Firm in Bloomington, Illinois, has proven experience in matters of criminal defense. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free consultation. You can reach The Prior Law Firm by phone at (309) 827-4300, email at or by completing an online form.