When early mankind traveled across the continents, they left behind carvings in stone and painted drawings on cliffs and caves, marking where they'd been. While those ancient human hallmarks are now considered treasures, doing the same today while on vacation can get you involved in a legal headache you'd probably prefer to avoid. If you and your family or friends are sight-seeing in historical areas or national parks, this is what you need to know about vandalism (before someone makes a mistake).
Vandalism is a big concern with serious consequences.
There's probably a somewhat natural inclination to want to record a special moment, especially if you're awed by your surroundings while visiting a natural wonder or another place of historical significance. You may just be caught up in a romantic moment, like actress Vanessa Hudgens and her boyfriend. The duo carved their names into one of the red rocks of the Coconino National Forest in Sedona, AZ. As a result, the actress and her boyfriend could face up to a $5,000 fine and 6 months in prison.
Other people have committed similar acts of vandalism while on vacation at the Alamo, and a variety of national parks across the nation. Some are even serial vandals, like the 21-year-old woman who left her mark in paint on rocks in 8 different national parks and posted the results on Instagram—apparently before realizing that investigators do track that sort of thing and were seeking to identify her.
Like these people, many other tourists to national parks and monuments fail to realize that their impromptu acts—no matter how small—are considered serious crimes. You can be subjected to both state and federal penalties. You may also be fined, ordered to pay the costs of any investigation, and possibly ordered to pay for the restoration of the area that was defaced.
What can you do to make sure that you don't end up in trouble?
If you are planning on traveling to a historic site, national park, or some other monument, make sure that everyone in your party understands what vandalism is (especially if you are traveling with children). It includes any number of activities, but everyone in the party should understand that certain activities are expressly forbidden:
- using a key, knife, or another sharp object to scratch names, initials, figures, or anything else into walls, rocks, or trees
- toppling rock piles and disturbing natural structures of any kind
- drawing on any walls, rocks, or structures with paint, chalk, or other substances
- adding to the art left behind by indigenous people
- removing stones, bricks, or other small objects from landmarks, monuments, and national parks
If you're concerned about the possibility of someone ignoring the rules, consider adopting the "buddy system." Pair that person with someone that you think is more responsible so that the group can be alerted if he or she seems inclined to break the rules.
If someone in your party does make a mistake, keep in mind that you don't want to try to avoid getting caught. If you're eventually found out, you could be convicted as an accessory after the fact, for covering up the crime. Instead, talk to a criminal defense attorney, like one at Hart Law Offices, PC, right away. In many cases, it's possible to work out a plea bargain that will at least keep you out of jail.