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Vandalism is generally the damage, destruction, defacing, or alteration of tangible public or private property, done with criminal intent (intentionally or knowingly). Vandalism charges often arise from (1) damage to a home or dwelling; (2) damage to a place of business; (3) damage to a motor vehicle; (4) damage to a school; (5) defacement or destruction of public or private property (graffiti, etc.); or (6) tampering with public water, gas, power, or communications.

Vandalism is sometimes classified as criminal mischief or reckless damage or destruction of property under state laws. These laws vary from state to state and are generally located in a state’s statutes—usually in the penal or criminal code.

In Texas, vandalism is typically classified under the broader legal term 'criminal mischief,' which is outlined in the Texas Penal Code. Criminal mischief includes intentionally or knowingly damaging or destroying the tangible property of another, tampering with the property of another and causing pecuniary loss or substantial inconvenience, or marking, inscribing, drawing on, or otherwise defacing tangible property without the owner's consent. The severity of the charges and the penalties for vandalism in Texas depend on the extent of the damage and the value of the property affected. Charges can range from a Class C misdemeanor for minor damage (less than $100) to a first-degree felony for damage amounting to $300,000 or more. This includes damage to homes, businesses, vehicles, schools, and public utilities. Graffiti, which is a common form of vandalism, is also specifically addressed in the Texas Penal Code and carries its own set of penalties, which can be enhanced depending on factors such as the location of the graffiti and any previous convictions.

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