In Massachusetts, if you damage, destroy, or vandalize another’s property, you may receive a criminal citation or charge for malicious damage. This type of property damage can include keying a car, graffiti, or even breaking things while involved in a domestic argument. The charge you may be facing following this type of offense is largely dependent on your intentions when you caused the damage. Although a criminal citation may not seem like a serious consequence, keep in mind that it will still result in a criminal record. And a criminal record can negatively impact you for years, potentially affecting your ability to find a job or housing.
If you hire a skilled MA defense attorney to defend you against a malicious damage charge, your attorney may be able to get the charge dropped in exchange for paying for damages. This will help you to avoid a criminal record and will keep you out of jail. If, however, the charge is not dropped, you may still be eligible for pretrial probation or a pretrial hearing. Both of these options will also keep your record clean.
Penalties for Malicious Damage
Penalties vary based on several factors, including the unique circumstances of the charge and any prior criminal history. However, the guidelines below will give you a good idea of what penalties you may be facing if you are charged with malicious damage.
If you “willfully and maliciously” committed the act for which you are being charged, you could face:
- Up to 10 years in prison.
- Fines of up to $3,000 or up to three times the cost of the damage (whichever is greater).
If you “wantonly” committed the act for which you are being charged, you may face:
- Up to two-and-a-half years in jail.
- Fines of up to $1,500 or up to three times the cost of the damage (whichever is greater).
“Willful and malicious” means that you intended to cause damage, whereas “wanton” means the damage was caused because you acted carelessly. In either case, if you caused less than $250 in damage, you may still face up to two-and-a-half months in jail and up to three times the cost of the damage.
Protected Property Types
The guidelines above are fairly straightforward unless the property in question is of a certain, protected class. For example, damaging a church generally carriers stiffer penalties than damaging an abandoned building. The types of property below carry a more serious charge, due to their sacred or special nature. You may face a felony charge if you are convicted of destroying or vandalizing any of the following property types:
- School or educational facility
- Community center
- House of worship
If you are charged with defacing or destroying any of the above property types, it is essential that you contact a Boston defense attorney immediately. If the damage is valued at more than $5,000, you may find yourself in prison for up to five years. If it’s less than $5,000, you could still face jail time of up to two-and-a-half years and pay fines of up to three times the cost of the damage you caused. Furthermore, a felony charge on your record could haunt you for decades. Don’t make the mistake of hiring the wrong attorney if you are facing charges for malicious damage. Continue reading