New York Penal Law § 145.23: Cemetery desecration in the first degree

Cemetery desecration is a crime that involves stealing from or vandalizing a cemetery plot, grave, burial place or other place of interment of human remains. Common forms of cemetery desecration includes damaging headstones by toppling them over, spray painting or in some other way marking headstones with graffiti, stealing headstones, damaging flowers, vases and other personal items left on a grave, and fully or partially digging up graves. Under New York Penal Law § 145.23, you could be prosecuted for cemetery desecration in the first degree if you:

  1. Cause damages in excess of $250 to real or personal property that is maintained as a place of interment of human remains,

  2. Intentionally steal personal property worth in excess of $250 that is located at a place of interment of human remains and that is owned by the person or organization that maintains the place of human interment or is owned by the estate of the deceased person, or

  3. Commit cemetery desecration in the second degree after having previously been convicted of the same crime.

Example

As a prank Frank, Fred, and Forest went to a nearby cemetery and toppled over 5 headstones. They then decided to see how far they could toss each of the headstones. As a result all 5 headstones were severely damaged. Frank, Fred, and Forest could all be charged with cemetery desecration in the first degree as the damage they caused likely exceeds $250.

Related Offenses
  • Trespass: New York Penal Law § 140.05
  • Criminal mischief in the third degree: New York Penal Law § 145.05
  • Criminal mischief in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 145.10
  • Criminal mischief in the first degree: New York Penal Law § 145.12
Defenses

To be convicted of cemetery desecration in the first degree the prosecutor must be able to prove that the damage you are accused of causing or the property that you are accused of stealing has a value of more than $250. If the prosecutor is not able to produce evidence that shows the required value, then you may have a valid defense against a charge of cemetery desecration in the first degree.

Sentence

Cemetery desecration in the first degree is a class E felony. The consequences of a conviction is that the judge may order that you be sent to prison for up to four years. However, it is also possible that the judge will not sentence you to prison, but will instead sentence you to a 5 year probation term. In addition, the judge may order you to pay a fine as well as restitution.

New York Penal Law § 145.23: Cemetery Desecration in the First Degree

A person is guilty of cemetery desecration in the first degree when with intent to damage property of another person, and having no right to do so nor any reasonable ground to believe that he has such right, he:

  1. damages any real or personal property maintained as a cemetery plot, grave, burial place or other place of interment of human remains in an amount exceeding two hundred fifty dollars; or

  2. with intent to steal personal property, he steals personal property, the value of which exceeds two hundred fifty dollars, which is located at a cemetery plot, grave, burial place or other place of interment of human remains and which property is owned by the person or organization which maintains or owns such place or the estate, next-of-kin or representatives of the deceased person interred there; or

  3. commits the crime of cemetery desecration in the second degree as defined in § 145.22 of this article and has been previously convicted of the crime of cemetery desecration in the second degree within the preceding five years.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you have been accused of cemetery desecration it is important to seek legal guidance right away. The consequences of being convicted of this crime can be significant, so it is imperative that your rights are protected. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been charged with criminal mischief as well as other felonies and misdemeanors such as grand larceny, burglary, and assault. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve those accused of larceny in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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