Malicious destruction of property is a serious crime that carries the possibility of a state prison sentence upon conviction.
Elements of Malicious Destruction of Property
In order to convict a defendant of malicious destruction of property, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant damaged or destroyed the personal property, dwelling house, or building of another person;
- The defendant did so willfully; and
- The defendant did so with malice.
The potential penalties for malicious destruction of property depend upon the value of the allegedly damaged or destroyed property.
Willful conduct is done intentionally and by design. An act is done with malice if done out of cruelty, hostility, or revenge. The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted deliberately and out of hostility toward the owner of the property.
There is a separate crime for wanton destruction of property. An act of destruction is "wanton" if the defendant was reckless or indifferent to the fact that his or her conduct would probably cause substantial damage to the property.
Common Defenses and Defense Strategies
Malicious destruction of property cases can be defended in a variety of ways.
- Accident - The most common and successful defense to malicious destruction of property is accident. The Commonwealth is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally destroyed or damaged the property. An "accident" is defined as an unexpected happening that occurs without intention or design on the defendant's part. It is a sudden, unexpected event that takes place without the defendant's intending it.
Given the serious consequences that result from a conviction for malicious destruction of property, it is essential that you have an attorney who is experienced in trying these types of cases. Spring & Spring criminal defense attorneys have the necessary experience to aggressively defend your case.