If I accidentally broke a neighbor’s window, is this a criminal offense?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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If I accidentally broke a neighbor’s window, is this a criminal offense?

I accidentally broke my neighbor’s window by banging on it too hard. I was trying to get them to be quite because my neighbor is so loud all the time late into the night. I have told the landlord of the building and said that I would pay for the damage and they were fine with it. The man who makes the noise is not on the lease with the master tenant from the apartment but has apparently filed a police report. Can he press charges for the accidental damage even though he is subleasing from the master tenant and not on the books with the landlord? Or can only the landlord press charges for damage? When I spoke to the landlord he said that it’s totally fine and he will just send me the bill to fix the window. Not sure what amount of trouble I could be in for this.

Asked on March 15, 2016 under Real Estate Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Either the tenant or the landlord may seek to press charges, and charges can be filed even if you pay for the damage. 
If it was an accident, it's not a crime--a crime requires criminal intent, such as an intent to damage the window. Without criminal intent, it may be something you have to pay to fix, but it's not a crime.
If the tenant thinks you broke his window on purpose, he can report it to the authorities. IF the authorities believe that you acted on purpose, they may choose to file charges or possibly even arrest you...though for a minor crime (that is, *if* they think you did it intentionally) for which you are wiling to pay for damages, there is good chance they would not: the police and prosecutors have much bigger crimes on their plates to deal with.

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