The Office Provides Insight into Criminal Damage to Property
The Office is an iconic television series that was known for placing its characters in awkward and uncomfortable situations. In the episode “Dinner Party,” Michael (the boss) invites his employees over for a relaxing get together where Michael attempts to solicit funds for his ex-boss/girlfriend Jan’s failing candle company. Instead of a relaxing dinner party, Michael’s guests are treated to a night of passive aggressive fighting between the hosts, Jan and Michael. After the fighting goes from passive aggressive to destructive, the night ends with the police standing at Michael’s doorway. Jan, in a fit of rage, threw a Dundie (a trophy given to the World’s Best Boss) at Michael’s cherished $200 plasma screen TV. Michael tells the police when they arrive that he does not wish to press charges against Jan, but what if he did? What kind of charges would Jan have faced if the incident had not been in Scranton Pennsylvania, but instead was right here in Minnesota?
As a starting point, there are four different degrees of criminal damage to property in Minnesota. First degree criminal damage to property is a felony and reserved for certain types of damages. Situations where first degree criminal damage to property applies include, 1) creating a risk of injuries to others, 2) the property damaged was a public safety motor vehicle, 3) the damage reduced the property value by more than $1,000, 4) the damage reduced the property value by more than $500 AND the defendant has a prior similar conviction within the proceeding 3 years. Jan would likely not be charged with first degree criminal damage to property since the plasma TV was only worth $200 (even though to Michael it was priceless) and she did not create a risk of injury to others (she did not throw the Dundie in the direction of anyone at the party).
Second degree criminal damage to property occurs when an individual damages another’s property based on the property owner’s race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. This a felony offense and often is charged in relation to “hate crimes.” Jan’s act was hateful, but would not fall under second degree criminal damage to property.
Third degree criminal damage to property is a misdemeanor offense and is reserved for property damage between $500 and $1,000. All other damage to property that does not fall under the first three degrees of criminal damage to property will be charged as fourth degree criminal damage to property. Jan would likely be charged with third or fourth degree criminal damage to property. She would be guilty of a misdemeanor and would likely have to pay a small fine to settle the matter.
Luckily for Jan, Michael did not wish to press charges. However, following the incident, she and Michael broke off their relationship. Jan was forced to live a life without Michael Scott, which is a life many fans of The Office hope to never face.
If you would like to watch “Dinner Party” (we highly recommend it), it is Season 4 Episode 13.