Written by attorney Brenton Daniel Vincenzes

Less Common Property Damage in Virginia: Public Buildings, Vehicle Tampering, Rentals, & More

Property Damage to Public Buildings, Vehicle Tampering, Rental Cars, Vending Machines

By Brenton D. Vincenzes, Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney

I. Public Buildings

II. Tampering with a Vehicle (& "Setting in Motion")

III. Jackrocks or Tire Slashing Tools

IV. Rental Vehicles

V. Vending Machines and Parking Meters


This guide covers several of the "less common" property damage laws and penalties in Virginia. My previously published guide on Property Damage in Virginia covered the more common law, Virginia Code § 18.2-137. Injuring, etc., any property, monument, etc. This guide covers the distinct offenses listed below:

  • § 18.2-138. Damaging public buildings
  • § 18.2-146. Breaking, injuring, defacing, destroying or preventing the operation of vehicle, aircraft or boat
  • § 18.2-147. Entering or setting in motion, vehicle, aircraft, boat, locomotive
  • § 18.2-147.2. Devices for puncturing motor vehicle tires
  • § 18.2-148. Bona fide repossession under lien
  • § 18.2-149. Injury to hired animal, aircraft, vehicle or boat
  • § 18.2-152. Stealing from or tampering with parking meter, vending machine, pay telephone, etc.

I. Damage to public buildings

The Code of Virginia § 18.2-138 lists certain categories of property which are subject to treatment as either a Class 1 misdemeanor or a Class 6 felony. The law is applicable when the property damaged is alleged to have been inside, or a part of, a public building. "Public buildings," for purposes of this statute, include courthouses, libraries, town halls, churches, and others. The following non-exhaustive list examplifies some of the categories or property covered by this law:

  • Windows and doors of public buildings
  • “any property" in such buildings
  • “[A]ny book, newspaper, magazine, pamphlet, map, picture, manuscript, or other property located in any library, reading room, museum, or other educational institution…"

II. Certain Vehicle Damage and Tampering

Tampering with a vehicle to render it inoperable may be an act some have heard others brag about, for example, a "revenge story." The Virginia Code § 18.2-146 is the topic of this guide's subsection II. Spiteful actions of revenge may seem justified, but despite whether or not you believe an owner of such property/vehicle "had it coming," there are very serious consequences which quite simply make these actions criminal acts, and therefore, not worth committing. There could be civil suit(s) as well (e.g., if as a result of the tampering, a person is unable to travel to a hospital or emergency care provider). Subsection A and B of Part II of this guide addresses actions related to:

  • rending a vehicle inoperable; and,
  • setting a vehicle in motion.

A. Rendering vehicle inoperable

If a person wilfully removes parts from another's vehicle, boat, or aircraft in an attempt to render such vehicle inoperable, then he or she is subject to punishment by way of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Penalties for a Class 1 misdemeanor in the Commonwealth of Virginia include:

  • up to 12 months in jail; and/or
  • up to a $2,500 fine.

Even if the accused is alleged to have intended to merely temporarily prevent a vehicle, boat, aircraft (or locomotive) from operating, then this law applies nonetheless.

B. Setting in Motion

Similar to this aforementioned law (rendering a vehicle inoperable), the Code of Virginia § 18.2-147 covers the setting in motion of a vehicle, boat, vessel, aircraft, or locomotive. For example, the law might apply to a case involving the “manipulation of a lever," or tampering with brakes in order to set a vehicle in motion. Perhaps the easiest scenario to picture in one's mind is the shifting of a vehicle's gears to nuetral, and releasing the parking brake on a hill.

A limited exception exists: where a lawful repossession is the underlying reason for the "setting in motion" (e.g., towing), then The Code of Virginia § 18.2-148 excepts criminal liability. Such repossession must be lawful.

III. Tools Manufactured or Possessed for Purpose of Slashing Tire

Except for law enforcement officials engaged in their duties, "jackrocks," also known as tire-slashers, are illegal to manufacture or possess. Many various forms of this kind of tool may feasibly exist; if you are having difficulty imagining such a tool, perhaps you are familiar with “tire strips" (used by police during some police chases, in order to stop a fleeing suspect).

IV. Rental Vehicle Damage

If you own a rental vehicle, you likely are already aware of this specific statute: Virginia Code § 18.2-149. If you have ever rented a vehicle, perhaps you have wondered, "what could happen if I cause damage to this car?" The answer is, one could be found criminally liable. This even applies to those who recklessly drive a vehicle and damage it as a result. It also applies not only to cars, but rented animals (e.g., horses), airplanes, and boats.

V. Damaging Vending Machines or Other Devices Used to Collect Money

We have probably all been there before:

  • a vending machine malfunctions and your chips get stuck;
  • you put money into a meter only to find out it does not register time; or,
  • a pay phone takes your money.

These are frusterating examples of when one ought to keep his or her "cool" to avoid breaking the law and thus, picking up a criminal charge. Specifically, a charge under The Code of Virginia § 18.2-152.

Tampering or attempting to tamper or open a vending machine or any device “designed to receive money," is a Class 1 misdemeanor criminal offense. A subsequent offense is a felony!

Vincenzes Law, PLLC, is a criminal defense firm in Fairfax, Virginia. Brenton D. Vincenzes is a criminal defense attorney who offers free consultations (with no set time limit), flat fee quotations (as opposed to hourly billing), and several generous discounts. If your charge arises in an area outside of Northern Virginia, please speak with an attorney near you. If you were charged as a result of actions in Fairfax County, Spotsylvania County, Arlington County, Prince William County, the City of Alexandria, the City of Manassas, or the City of Fredericksburg, ask for a free case evaluation. Vincenzes Law offers free case evaluations by email, or in-person.

Disclaimer:This guide is not legal advice. It is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Do not rely on anything you read on the internet, regardless of the source. If faced with a criminal accusation, investigation, or charge, please consult a licensed attorney with criminal law experience.

Additional resources provided by the author

The Code of Virginia: § 18.2-138. Damaging public buildings, etc.; penalty. § 18.2-139. Injuries to trees, fences or herbage on grounds of Capitol, or in any public square. § 18.2-140. Destruction of trees, shrubs, etc. § 18.2-143. Pulling down fences or leaving open gates. § 18.2-146. Breaking, injuring, defacing, destroying or preventing the operation of vehicle, aircraft or boat. § 18.2-147. Entering or setting in motion, vehicle, aircraft, boat, locomotive or rolling stock of railroad; exceptions. § 18.2-147.2. Devices for puncturing motor vehicle tires. § 18.2-148. Bona fide repossession under lien. § 18.2-149. Injury to hired animal, aircraft, vehicle or boat § 18.2-152. Stealing from or tampering with parking meter, vending machine, pay telephone, etc

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