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What are the consequences for juvenile vandalism?

Long stretches of vacation time during the winter holidays can lead to boredom and unwise choices for kids, including vandalism.

The term "vandalism" covers a wide range of intentional property destruction. Therefore, the penalties vary. For example, spraying gang-related graffiti on a wall is a more serious offense than drawing an image of your favorite musician. Vandalism that is directed at people of a particular race, religion or other group may be considered a hate crime and a violation of federal law.

Minors who are charged with vandalism are usually tried in the juvenile justice system (assuming that they didn't commit a more serious crime as well). That means that if they're found guilty, they won't end up in an adult prison. They also may be able to have the case records sealed or destroyed later on.

However, in the meantime, there are penalties that they and their parents will have to pay if they're found to have committed the crime.

There is also the matter of restitution, which is paying the victim(s) to repair or replace the property that was damaged, as well as for clean-up costs. Since most kids can't afford what can run into hundreds or thousands of dollars in damages, the parents often foot that bill.

Parents also have to pay for the costs associated with measures ordered by the court. This can include electronic monitoring, mental health care, drug testing and substance abuse treatment, as well as court costs and fines.

It's important to talk to your kids about the potential consequences of vandalism. "Good" kids can get caught up group behavior that can get them in trouble with the law.

Even if they see it as a harmless prank, law enforcement doesn't when it involves damage to property. If your child is accused of vandalism, it's essential to understand the potential legal and financial ramifications for you and your child.

Source: FindLaw, "Child Charged With Vandalism: What Punishments Are Possible?," Mark Wilson, accessed Nov. 24, 2017

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