A conviction for vandalism and tagging could result in a jail sentence and will result in a driver’s license suspension from the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Elements of Vandalism and Tagging
In order to convict a defendant of vandalism and tagging, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant applied paint or placed a sticker on a wall, a building, a sign, a fence, a gravestone, a tablet, a monument, or any other object or thing on any public way or adjoined to any public way, or in public view, or on any private property; and
- The defendant intended to mar, deface, mark, damage, or destroy such property.
Common Defenses and Defense Strategies
Vandalism cases can be defended in a variety of ways.
- Identity of the Vandal – Vandalism and tagging usually occurs at night. Therefore, identification of the defendant is often an issue at trial. If the police did not conduct a non-suggestive identification procedure with the Commonwealth’s witnesses (including the alleged victim), Attorney Spring will file a motion to exclude an in-court identification, which is often fatal to the prosecutor’s case. Even where eyewitnesses identified the defendant (both for the police and at trial), Attorney Spring will argue to the jury that eyewitnesses are susceptible to incorrectly identifying criminal suspects and should not be believed without corroborating evidence.
- Bias – Because the Commonwealth must prove that the defendant intended to damage or destroy the alleged victim’s property, bias (or motive for the alleged victim to lie) is always an issue at trial. Whether the defendant allegedly damaged the property of an ex-spouse, an estranged neighbor, or a stranger, the alleged victim might be tempted to lie to assist the prosecution. Attorney Spring will cross-examine the alleged victim on his or her bias against the defendant and motive to lie, and suggest to the jury that the alleged victim should not be believed.
- While a conviction for vandalism and tagging carries potentially serious consequences, prosecutors can sometimes be convinced to dismiss these cases upon the payment of restitution or court costs. In addition to saving the defendant from being convicted of a crime, it will save the defendant’s driver’s license from being suspended. Attorney Spring will attempt to convince prosecutors that dismissal of the charges is appropriate in your case.
Have You Been Charged?
If you have been charged with vandalism or tagging property, you should hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you in court. Middlesex County criminal defense attorney Chris Spring has spent his career trying cases like disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace in front of Massachusetts juries in district court and superior court and is prepared to aggressively defend you. You also should not agree to make a statement to the police without being accompanied by a criminal defense attorney.
Attorney Spring is particularly sensitive to the fact that many times the defendants in these cases are high school or college students who made an error of judgment. He describes his clients’ personal history to the prosecutor in an effort to convince the prosecutor that a criminal conviction is a disproportionate punishment for the crime.