Malicious or Wanton Destruction of Property

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:

  1. The defendant destroyed or damaged the personal property, building, or dwelling house of another person;
  2. The defendant did so willfully; and
  3. The defendant acted 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 hostility, cruelty, 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 acted recklessly or indifferently to the fact that his or her conduct would probably result in substantial damage to the victim’s property.

A dwelling house is any place where people live. Dwelling houses include single family homes, apartments, duplexes, hotels, dormitories, and tenement buildings.

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.
  • Bias – Because the Commonwealth must prove that the defendant acted with malice in damaging the alleged victim’s property, bias (or motive for the alleged victim to lie) is almost always a live issue at trial. Whether the defendant allegedly damaged the property of a former employer, a former spouse, another family member, or even a stranger in a road rage incident, any bad feelings between the parties may create an incentive for the alleged victim to lie. Attorney Spring will fully examine any bias or motive to lie during his cross-examination of the alleged victim.

Given the serious consequences that result from a conviction for malicious or wanton destruction of property, you should hire an aggressive criminal defense attorney who has experience in litigating these types of cases. Attorney Chris Spring prosecuted these cases earlier in his career when he served as an assistant district attorney and since becoming a defense attorney, he has successfully defended hundreds of individuals charged with this crime. Having tried more than 150 cases before Massachusetts juries in both district and superior court, Attorney Spring has the necessary experience to guide you through the criminal justice system and present your side of the story to a jury. As with any crime, you should never speak to the police before first consulting with a criminal defense attorney to explore all of your options.

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