A Village cited an individual for criminal damage to property, alleging the defendant violated the Village Code by knowingly hiring a landscaping company to enter onto her neighbor’s property to remove buckthorn (an invasive tree species), which caused damage to her neighbor’s property. 

The trial court ruled in favor of the Village, finding it had demonstrated that (1) the defendant intentionally hired a landscaping company to remove buckthorn; (2) the buckthorn was on the neighbor’s property, and (3) the neighbor’s property incurred damage because of the removal of the buckthorn. The court sentenced the defendant to six months’ supervision, $500 in fines, and 40 hours of community service. 

The defendant appealed and argued that the only property that was damaged was an invasive plant, and because the Village’s own ordinance provides mitigation credit for the elimination of the invasive plant, she could not be guilty of destroying “an illegal substance.” The Appellate Court disagreed, concluding that the removed buckthorn was property of her neighbor and was not her property to destroy. Further, the Appellate Court found the defendant was properly notified of the charges against her, and rejected her argument that she could not be charged for actions taken by the landscaping company she hired. Village of Deerfield v. Merten.

Post Authored by Molly Anne Krebs & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink.