Facing a Malicious Damage Charge in MA?
Any type of property damage—from vandalism and graffiti to hitting another’s property with your car—can result in a criminal charge for malicious damage. As with most crimes, penalties for malicious damage are largely dependent on the circumstances of the case, the severity of the offense, and whether or not you have a prior criminal record.
What are the Penalties?
Penalties for malicious damage vary widely based on whether you acted deliberately or carelessly. Willful and malicious actions can carry a potential sentence of up to two-and-a-half years in jail and fines of up to three times the cost of the damage or $3,000, whichever is greater. If, on the other hand, you acted carelessly or wantonly, you may be facing a penalty of up to two-and-a-half years in jail and fines of up to three times the cost of the damage or $1,500, whichever is greater. Damage of less than $250 is punished much less severely, but can still land you in jail for up to two-and-a-half months.
Leaving the Scene
Let’s say you are driving one night when you hit and knock down a stop sign. Having just left a bar, you’re worried that you might be over the legal limit, so you leave the scene of the accident. Another driver gets your license plate number and reports the incident. You might end up facing two criminal charges—one for malicious damage and one for leaving the scene of property damage. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with any type of crime.
Can Malicious Destruction to Property be a Felony?
If you damage or vandalize certain types of property in MA, you may face felony charges. These specific buildings or locations have special protections due to their sacred or sensitive natures. If you destroy or deface any of the property below, you may be charged with a felony:
- Any house of worship
- Cemetery or any type of burial ground
- Community center
- Educational institution
In addition, if you cause more than $5,000 of damage to any of the above properties, you may face up to five years in prison. At less than $5,000, the potential penalties are up to two-and-a-half years in jail and fines of up to three times the cost of the damage or $2,000, whichever is greater. A MA criminal defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with malicious damage or another crime.
What About Graffiti?
Even as graffiti becomes more accepted and celebrated as a form of art, intentionally making graffiti on another’s property remains a criminal offense. Property can include walls, fences, signs, monuments, or buildings. It even includes rocks. Graffiti, also known as defacement of property, carries a potential penalty of up to three years in jail, and up to three times the cost of the damage or $1,500, whichever is greater. A defacement of property conviction may also lead to a one-year license suspension. Continue reading