Driving Without Tires and an Important Limit to Pennsylvania's Vandalism Law: Intent

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | May 08, 2019 | 0 Comments

A Philadelphia driver is in hot water after he apparently drove for several miles on Interstate 95 with no tires on his vehicle. While he has been arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI), the incident raises the question of whether he would also be charged with vandalism, as well.

Driver Goes Miles on Highway With No Tires, Tearing Up Road

The incident happened on the morning of May 7, 2019. According to the initial reports, a driver in a BMW convertible was going southbound on Interstate 95 through the Port Richmond area with no tires on his vehicle.

The friction from the vehicles speed and the metal rims on the roadway was spitting up debris and concrete. When police pulled the car over near exit 25, they arrested the driver on suspicion of drunk driving.

Vandalism and the Question of Intent

A first reaction to the story is that the vast majority of the damage would have been done to the driver's BMW. Driving on the rims of a car is almost guaranteed to cause serious damage to the wheels – often enough to require a complete replacement.

However, as the other drivers on I-95 can attest to, driving on a car's rims can also damage the roadway, as well.

We only just covered a similar situation in our blog involving an off-roading Jeep that damaged a walking trail at a local nature preserve. In that case, we discussed how Pennsylvania's vandalism law was so broad that it might be used by law enforcement to prosecute the driver of the Jeep.

Here, though, we may have come to the limit of Pennsylvania's exceptionally broad vandalism law.

The meat of our state's vandalism law is Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3304(a)(5), which prohibits conduct that “intentionally damages real or personal property of another.”

The breadth of this language has made it a favorite of Pennsylvania police. When faced with confusing but also potentially criminal conduct, they often make an arrest for vandalism in the knowledge that the law reaches far enough that they are probably right.

However, one of the only limitations in the law is that it requires intent. Accidentally or even recklessly damaging someone else's property does not rise to the level of vandalism.

That is an important detail for this particular case. The driver of the BMW without tires might be damaging “property of another,” but it is far less clear whether he had the intention to do it. Perhaps counter-intuitively, the fact that he is being charged with DUI could actually be used to defend against a potential charge for vandalism: Inebriation makes it more difficult to form the intent necessary to commit vandalism.

Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento

Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense lawyer who represents the accused in and near the city of Philadelphia. Call his law office at (215) 535-5353 or contact him online if you have been accused of committing a crime and want to challenge the prosecutor's case against you.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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