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NY Penal Law § 145.23: Cemetery Desecration in the First Degree

June 30, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

Cemetery desecration is a crime that can entail stealing from or vandalizing a cemetery plot, grave, tomb, mausoleum, burial place or other place of interment of human remains. Some common activities associated with the crime of cemetery desecration include damaging headstones by knocking them over, spray painting or marking headstones with graffiti  in some other manner, stealing headstones, damaging flowers, vases and other personal items left on a grave, and fully or partially digging up remains.  You could be prosecuted for cemetery desecration in the first degree under New York Penal Law § 145.23 if you:

  1. Cause damages in to the real or personal property that is maintained as a place of interment of human remains in a value that exceeds $250,
  2. Intentionally steal personal property worth in excess of $250 that is situated 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 individual interred there, or
  3. Commit cemetery desecration in the second degree again, after you have been previously convicted of the same crime.

For Example

As a joke, Frank, Farouk, and Forest went to a nearby cemetery and pushed 5 headstones over. They then decided to have a contest to see which one of them could toss each of the headstones the furthest. As a result, each of the 5 headstones sustained severe damage. Frank, Farouk, and Forest could all be charged with cemetery desecration in the first degree, because the damage they caused likely exceeds a value of $250.

Offenses that are Related

Cemetery Desecration in the Second Degree: New York Penal Law § 145.22

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

Possible Defenses

To be convicted of cemetery desecration in the first degree, the prosecutor must be able to demonstrate 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 proof that shows the required value of the damages, then you may have a valid defense against a charge of cemetery desecration in the first degree.

The Sentence

Cemetery desecration in the first degree is categorized as a class E felony. The consequences of a conviction for this crime is that the judge may order that you be sent to prison for up to four years. On the other hand, it is also possible that the judge will not sentence you to any time in prison.  He or she could instead sentence you to a 5 year probation term. On top of that , the judge may order you to pay a fine as well as monetary restitution to the victim.

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