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In Tennessee, vandalism can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, which is determined by the dollar amount of the damage a person causes. In most cases, vandalism will be a misdemeanor, but if someone causes property damage in excess of $500, prosecutors may opt to charge him or her with a felony.

As is the case with most property crimes, vandalism must be an intentional act. That means that if someone accidentally or unknowingly damages another’s property, prosecutors cannot charge them with vandalism; instead, it becomes a civil matter, and the property owner could to sue to recover his or her losses.

Whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony, vandalism charges can carry significant punishments. Generally speaking, a person convicted of a class A misdemeanor such as vandalism in Tennessee imposes up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $2,500 or both. If the damage is significant enough, vandalism becomes a class E felony and could carry a prison sentence of up to six years.

In these cases, a defendant’s best bet may be to work out an agreeable plea bargain with the district attorney. Sometimes, people charged with misdemeanor vandalism can avoid being convicted of a criminal offense if they offer to pay or otherwise make up for the damage.

Even though it may not seem like a life or death issue, people charged with a crime like vandalism should pay careful attention to their defense. Criminal defense lawyers may help negotiate with prosecutors on their client’s behalf and might be able to get the charges reduced. It is always preferable for people to avoid getting criminal charges on their records if possible.