The crime of Malicious Destruction of Property is the willful injury to or destruction of the personal property of another person. In Massachusetts, the willful and malicious destruction of property is considered a felony crime. It is distinguished from wanton destruction of property which is a misdemeanor offense.
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 266, Section 127, provides punishment for the crime of Malicious Destruction of Property by imprisonment in the House of Corrections for up to 2.5 years, or state prison for up to 10 years.
In order to prove the crime of Malicious Destruction of Property, the prosecutor is required to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That the defendant injured or destroyed the person property, dwelling house, or building of another;
- That the defendant did so willfully;
- That the defendant did so with malice; and
- That the amount of damage inflicted to the property was greater than $250.00.
For purposes of the crime of Malicious Destruction of Property, an act is willful if it is done intentionally and by design, as opposed to negligently or accidentally. The difference between malicious and wanton destruction relates to the level of intent. Wanton destruction is an intentional act with a disregard for the property of others. So, if you started hitting golf balls in your backyard without considering that you could break your neighbors window would be wanton destruction. Purposing aiming for your neighbor’s window would be wanton. Practicing your golf swing and accidentally hitting a ball too hard and breaking a window would be an accident and possibly negligent but not a criminal act because no intent to do harm or disregard for the fact that you could do harm.
An act is done with malice if it is done out of cruelty, hostility or revenge, and with hostility toward the owner of the property. Notably, the crime of Malicious Destruction of Property does not require that the defendant know the identity of the owner, but only that he acted with hostility towards the owner, whoever that may be.
Massachusetts penalties for felony willful and malicious destruction of property are quite severe. The potential punishment for conviction of this offense is as follows:
a. Incarceration in state prison for up to 10 years;
b. A fine of up to three thousand dollars ($3,000.00) or three times the value of the property destroyed, whichever is greater;
c. Incarceration in the county house of correction for up to two and one half 2½ years
If the destruction of the property is wanton then you can be punished as follows:
d. A fine of up to one thousand five hundred dollars ($1,500.00) or up to three times the value of the property, whichever is greater;
e. Imprisonment in the county house of correction for up to two and one half 2½ years
If the value of the destroyed property does not exceed $250.00:
f. A fine of up to three times the value of the property;
g. Imprisonment of up to 2 ½ months in the county house of correction
It is important that a person charged with this offense contact a qualified criminal defense lawyer as soon as you know that you are facing an investigation or charges. Attorney Schutzbank has the experience to handle malicious destruction cases. If you are or could be facing such charges, call our office today for a consultation.