OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 5733



This bill defines certain acts as vandalism of railroad property and gives them graduated criminal penalties based on the amount of property damage or the severity of bodily injury that results. The acts range from putting small objects on the tracks or throwing things at a locomotive or train to damaging or tampering with railroad property such as switches, track beds, or signal systems. Willful attempts to damage railroad property or endanger someone's safety result in higher penalties than acts resulting from someone's reckless disregard for railroad property or another's safety.

The bill covers acts of vandalism to virtually all types of property that a railroad might own, lease, or operate, but excludes administrative buildings, offices, and office equipment. It applies to any form of non-highway ground transportation that runs on rails or electromagnetic guideways, including commuter or other short haul passenger services and high speed systems, but it does not cover rapid transit operations in urban areas not connected to the general railroad transportation system.

The bill also makes it a class D felony to willfully (1) take or remove freight from a rail car with intent to permanently deprive the owner of it and (2) buy or receive any such freight having reason to know that it was stolen.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2000


Acting With Reckless Disregard

A person's actions would come under the bill's provisions when, with reckless disregard for railroad property or someone else's safety, he commits an act that may cause bodily injury or railroad property damage. These acts specifically include:

1. placing small objects such as coins, tokens, cans, or bottle caps on the track, or dropping or throwing an object, such as an egg or water balloon at a locomotive or train;

2. taking, removing, defacing, altering, marking with graffiti, or otherwise vandalizing a railroad sign, placard, marker, or other equipment or tangible property;

3. throwing a rock, baseball, or other object at a locomotive, rail car, or train;

4. dropping a brick or other object from a bridge or overpass onto a rail right-of-way;

5. shooting a firearm or other weapon at a locomotive, rail car, or train;

6. tampering with, damaging, or impairing a railroad signal system, including train control or dispatching systems and warning signal systems at highway grade crossings;

7. interfering or tampering with or obstructing switches, rails, roadbed, trestles, culverts, or other types of structures or appliances without the railroad's permission; and

8. stealing, removing, changing, altering, or interfering with various types of equipment associated with the operating mechanisms of a locomotive, rail car, or motor that can be used by a rail carrier, without its permission.

Acting Willfully

The bill establishes a second, higher set of penalties for a similar range of acts when someone willfully (1) damages or attempts to damage railroad property or (2) endangers or attempts to endanger another's safety. The specified acts are identical to those above except for the exclusion of placing small objects on tracks or throwing small objects at trains and for marking signs, placards, equipment, or property with graffiti.


The bill sets a range of classifications for acts of vandalism based on the amount of injury or property damage that results. It defines "bodily injury" to include cuts, bruises, burns, abrasions, disfigurement, physical pain, illness, impairment of a body member, organ or mental faculty, and any other injury, no matter how temporary. It defines a "serious bodily injury" as one resulting in a substantial risk of death, extreme physical pain, protracted and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a body member, organ, or mental faculty.

Crime classifications are as follows:

If Act Results In:

With Reckless Disregard


No Property Damage



Damage up to $250

Class B Misdemeanor

Class A Misdemeanor

Damage up to $1,500

Class A Misdemeanor

Class C Felony

Damage over $1,500

Class D Felony

Class B Felony

No Bodily Injury


Class A Misdemeanor

Bodily Injury

Class A Misdemeanor

Class C Felony

Serious Bodily Injury

Class D Felony

Class B Felony


Manslaughter 2nd Deg

(Class C Felony)

Manslaughter 1st Deg

(Class B Felony)


Penalties for Different Classes of Crimes

The penalties established by law for the classes of crimes covered by the bill are:

Crime Classification Imprisonment Fine

Class B Felony 1 to 20 years up to $15,000

Class C Felony 1 to 10 years up to $10,000

Class D Felony 1 to 5 years up to $5,000

Class A Misdemeanor up to 1 year up to $2,000

Class B Misdemeanor up to 6 months up to $1,000


Infractions are punishable by fines, usually set by Superior Court judges, of between $35 and $90, plus additional fees, surcharges, and costs. Some infractions increase when committed in designated construction, utility work, and school zones. This means some violators could have to pay $361, although most have to pay less than that and many pay less than $100. An infraction is not a crime; thus, violators do not have criminal records and can pay the fine by mail without making a court appearance.

Related Bill

sHB 5798, reported favorably by the Transportation Committee, increases the penalty for trespassing on a railroad carrier's property from an infraction to a misdemeanor and makes it a class B misdemeanor to ride on the outside of a train or inside a rail car without legal authority or the consent of the carrier.


Transportation Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute