Traffic signs are indispensable aids for any driver needing information on the road. They can provide information on routes, warn drivers of any dangerous elements ahead of them, and even designate places of interest.
You might think destroying or altering a traffic sign might be a great prank since it hurts no one. However, not only does this act inconvenience drivers, but it’s also a crime in Alabama.
Possession, destruction, or altering a sign is prohibited
Per state law, no person may unlawfully possess or intentionally destroy, deface, or alter the letters on a traffic sign. The rules cover all traffic signs and even traffic control devices (such as traffic lights) erected by the state Department of Transportation, a local county or city.
The penalties for stealing or destroying a traffic sign
If a person is convicted of stealing a traffic sign, they’ll have to pay as much as $50 in fines.
However, those who damage or alter a sign face far more severe punishments – both fines and imprisonment – based on the total value of damages caused:
- Damage inflicted worth more than $2,500: A conviction leads to a Class C felony, which carries up to ten years of prison and $15,000 in fines.
- Damage inflicted worth more than $500, less than $2,500: A conviction leads to a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to a year of jail time and $6,000 in fines.
- Damage inflicted worth less than $500: A conviction leads to a Class B misdemeanor, which carries up to six months of jail time and $3,000 in fines.
If the offender is a minor under 18, their parents or guardians will be liable for the damages and court costs. Additionally, a court may order an offender under 18 to correct or clean up the damage they caused.
Traffic signs are properties of the government that erected them, so damaging or altering them is illegal. Anyone accused of the crime should consider their legal options because a conviction can lead to jail time. Minors facing the criminal charge should also understand that officials can force their parents or guardians to pay for their legal costs and damages.