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What is vandalism of a house of worship?

The Easter season is almost here. For many it marks the start of spring. A time for bunny rabbits and Easter egg hunts. For others it is a religious holiday marked with a variety of services at their chosen place of worship. Believers respect their house of worship and expect that the law will also respect these places.

There are times when places of worship are not respected. Occasionally churches may fall victim to vandalism. Vandalism is defined as the willful or malicious defacement of property. Though Georgia law has criminal statutes that address vandalism, there is a special statute that addresses vandalism of places of worship.

Georgia statute O.C.G.A. 16-7-26 addresses this issue. There are two parts to the Vandalism to a place of worship statute. Part (a) defines a place of worship as a church, synagogue or place of public worship. If a location meets this definition and is maliciously defaced, he or she may be punished by the terms of this statute. Part (b) of the statute outlines the potential punishment. Anyone convicted under this statute may be subject to imprisonment for one to five years.

Unlike many property crimes, vandalism of a house of worship can evoke a deep emotional response from the community. In these cases it is particularly important that the defense ensure that the prosecution proves every element of the case. Here, it may be critically important to prove the element of malicious intent by the defendant. An experienced criminal defense attorney will work to protect the legal rights of the accused.

Source: Justia US Law, "Vandalism to a place of worship," last visited March 2, 2015

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