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I recently saw a story on YouTube about a family which had an issue dealing with a roofing company. The roofing firm somehow made an error about which house they were supposed to re-shingle and ended up stripping all the roof tiles off the wrong house, leaving the roof completely bare and destroying the shingles.

After this error, the company apologized but rather than offer to re-shingle for free due to the error, they offered the family a "reduced rate".

My question is if a situation like this would be a criminal violation? I assume civil action would be possible to recover damages, but has a crime been committed?

For example would the roofing firm have comitted a vandalism type crime? Even though it was a "mistake" they did ruin the roof "on purpose" - their intention WAS to destroy (strip) the roof. Also potentially I thought some kind of racketeering because the firm is essentially drumming up business for itself by destroying a functional roof then offering to fix it for money.

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There are three potential crimes: vandalism, trespass, and fraud. A conviction on any of these counts would require the state to prove bad intent, for example you would have to prove malicious intent for vandalism, or that they knew that they had no permission to be on the roof. Their defense could be as simple as "I'm so sorry, we got the wrong address". On the other hand, if they "got the wrong address" on a regular basis, it is at least reasonable to think that they are running a scam. Still, for a criminal conviction, you need more than a probability that they had an evil intent: you need to rule out negligent or reckless conduct.

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Even though it was a "mistake" they did ruin the roof "on purpose" - their intention WAS to destroy (strip) the roof.

No. Their intention was to repair the roof and improve the property. That damage was done was entirely accidental. Most jurisdictions require malicious intent, but even those who don't require the damage to be intentional.

After this error, the company apologized but rather than offer to re-shingle for free due to the error, they offered the family a "reduced rate".

This makes me wonder if it really was a mistake or whether it was a scam to get the family to employ their services at a "reduced rate" at which they could still make a profit. If there is evidence to support this, then their intent was malicious and various vandalism and trespass laws would likely apply.

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  • Negligent intent and strict liability crimes can be established by law, although they rarely are enacted unless the harm is either very severe (negligent homicide) or very trivial (speeding). – ohwilleke Aug 4 at 14:26
  • @ohwilleke I checked for such criminal laws in several jurisdictions and was unable to find any. Most jurisdictions even required malicious intent. Of course, civil actions would be possible. – David Schwartz Aug 4 at 16:58
  • Colorado has, e.g., 18-3-105. Criminally negligent homicide.; 18-3-106. Vehicular homicide. (1)(b) (I) "If a person operates or drives a motor vehicle while under the influence . . . and such conduct is the proximate cause of the death of another, such person commits vehicular homicide. This is a strict liability crime." 18-3-205. Vehicular assault. (1) (b) (I) "If a person operates or drives a motor vehicle while under the influence . . . and this conduct is the proximate cause of a serious bodily injury to another, such person commits vehicular assault. This is a strict liability crime." – ohwilleke Aug 4 at 17:30
  • Parts of 18-3-402. Sexual assault; 18-3-412.6. Failure to verify location as a sex offender (negligence); 18-4-504. Third degree criminal trespass. "A person commits the crime of third degree criminal trespass if such person unlawfully enters or remains in or upon premises of another." "18-4-511. Littering of public or private property. Any person who deposits, throws, or leaves any litter on any public or private property or in any waters commits littering." 18-4-401. Theft. "Demands any consideration to which he or she is not legally entitled as a condition of restoring the thing of value" – ohwilleke Aug 4 at 17:47
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    @ohwilleke Sure, but I was looking at laws that might be relevant to this question. The criminal trespass statutes I looked at would not apply if the alleged trespasser had a reasonable belief that they were authorized to be where they were. 18-4-511 would require refusing a request to leave that you reasonably knew was authorized or not having a reasonable belief you were authorized to be there. That's what "unlawfully" means in that statute. ("I reasonably believed I was not trespassing" is a defense to 18-4-511.) – David Schwartz Aug 4 at 18:51

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