Criminal damage to property in Italy: definition and meaning

Regarding criminal damage to property, Article 635 of the Italian Criminal Code states that “anyone who destroys, wastes, damages or makes movable or immovable property belonging to another party totally or partially unserviceable, the offence being committed with actual bodily harm or threatened violence, or during events taking place in public places, in places open to the public, or in the circumstances referred to in Article 331, shall be punished with imprisonment from six months to three years […]”.

The article is aimed at punishing anyone who destroys, wastes, damages or makes movable or immovable property belonging to another party totally or partially unserviceable. The legal asset protected by this criminal law is the estate.

Subjective element of this offence is general intent, that is intention of the agent to attack a property, as well as knowledge that the property belongs to another party, even without a specific intent to harm.

In case of criminal damage to property, in Italy the suspension of the sentence depends on two alternative conditions: either the elimination of the harmful or dangerous consequences of the crime, or the possibility to carry out non remunerated works of social utility for a period of time not exceeding the duration of the suspended penalty.

Criminal damage to property in Italy: in quali casi è prevista la depenalizzazione? 

The Italian Legislative Decree no. 7/2016 decriminalised a number of offences, among others the offence of simple damage (committed against objects such as smartphones, cars, luggage, the neighbour’s plants and so on), so that today we speak of “decriminalised damage”.  

As a result, the former criminal offence today is punished with civil-law penalties.

Criminal damage property in Italy: what happens in case of aggravated offence? 

Aggravated criminal damage, unlike decriminalised damage, is still punished as a criminal offence.

Among the criminal conducts described by Article 635 of the Italian Criminal Code as aggravated criminal damage there are:

– offences committed with actual bodily harm or threatenedviolence;

– offences committed during events taking place in public places, in places open to the public, or in the event of interruption of public service;

– offences committed upon public buildings, worship places, things of artistic and historical interest, and real properties under construction or renovation;

– offences committed upon works intended for irrigation;

– offences committed upon vine plants, trees, fruit bushes, woods, forests, forest tree nurseries;

– offences committed upon sport facilities and aimed at preventing or stopping sport events.

Besides criminal damage offences, there is also the offence of defacement, provided for by Article 639 of the Italian Criminal Code and prosecuted on complaint by the injured party, with fines up to 103 euros.

In case the offence is committed upon real properties or public transportation, it is punished either with imprisonment from one to six months or with fines from 300 to 1000 euros. In case the offence is committed upon things of artistic and historical interest, it is punished either with imprisonment from three months to one year or with fines from 1000 to 3000 euros.

It is also worth remembering that:

- Article 733 of the Italian Criminal Code 733 punishes anyone who damages national archaeological historical and artistic heritage with imprisonment up to one year and fines from 2065 euros;

- Article 734 of the Italian Criminal Code 733 punishes with fines anyone who destroys or alters the natural beauty of protected places.

In recent years Italy’s historical and artistic heritage has been the subject of a number of acts of vandalism: Michelangelo’s Pietà was attacked with a hammer, Bernini’s Fountain of the Boat was damaged by Feyenoord hooligans, Colosseum and Pantheon in Rome were spoilt by tourists which carved their names on the walls, and many mosaic tiles in Pompeii were stolen. This seems to be a never-ending story, in spite of the considerable financial and criminal penalties imposed by Italian law.

Have you been charged with criminal damage in Italy? Do you need legal advice about decriminalised damage? Contact us.

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