The Bulletin Board

Sununu signs law adding potential jail time for people who commit vandalism

By: - July 11, 2022 3:55 pm
Arch at the State House plaza

One person climbed the State House entryway arch and spray-painted graffiti. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)

People who commit vandalism in New Hampshire could face up to a year in jail under a bill signed by Gov. Chris Sununu earlier this month, a change partly driven by defacement of the State House plaza.

House Bill 1011 increases the punishment for vandalism from a violation, which imposes no jail time and a maximum $1,000 fine, to a Class A misdemeanor, a designation that carries with it a possible jail sentence and a fine of up to $2,000. The new law took effect July 1.

The state’s vandalism statute covers anyone who has “vandalized, defaced, destroyed, tampered with, or made any other unauthorized alteration, whether permanent or temporary, to public property.” It requires that a person found guilty of that offense pay restitution “for any damage he or she has caused.” 

The effort to increase penalties came after the General Court’s chief operating officer, Terry Pfaff, who oversees building operations for the State House, pointed lawmakers toward a string of vandalism incidents at the State House plaza. 

Those incidents included “things hanging on the statues, painting, and chalking of the State House and plaza,” Pfaff said in an email to the Bulletin. He also cited one instance where a person broke off decorative granite on the building and another where a person chopped trees on the State House grounds with a hatchet. One person climbed the entryway arch on Main Street and spray-painted graffiti onto the granite globes, Pfaff said. 

Pfaff argued the higher penalties and the requirement to pay restitution will stop the violations from happening. 

“It gives the ability to deter these types of actions, and if they do occur then we can at least recover the costs of the repairs from the perpetrators if convicted,” he said. 

HB 1011 passed with unanimous voice votes in both the House and the Senate. 

The law was last changed in 2020, when the Legislature set the penalty as a violation. That year, lawmakers also expanded what counted as vandalism. Previously, the law covered anyone who had “vandalized, defaced, or destroyed” public property; the 2020 change expanded the offense to temporary alterations, too.

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Ethan DeWitt
Ethan DeWitt

Ethan DeWitt is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s education reporter. Previously, he worked as the New Hampshire State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, covering the state, the Legislature, and the New Hampshire presidential primary. A Westmoreland native, Ethan started his career as the politics and health care reporter at the Keene Sentinel.

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