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While malicious mischief might sound like a minor offense, saved for kids vandalizing a park bench, the reality is that these cases often require skilled representation from a Tacoma malicious mischief attorney.
Washington State lists malicious mischief as a property crime, dealing with typical acts of vandalism such as graffiti or other destruction, but if the property belonged to someone with whom you have had a past or current domestic relationship, it can also result in domestic violence allegations and harsher repercussions.
If you or a loved one has been charged in the Tacoma area with malicious mischief in any scenario, contact The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield PLLC right away at (253) 518-3643 to schedule a free initial consultation to see how we can help.
What is Malicious Mischief in Washington?
In some jurisdictions across Washington, malicious mischief is referred to as “destruction of property,” but the statute and penalties remain the same, regardless of the court handling your case. Whether you are accused of slashing the tires of an ex, spray-painting the side of a building, or damaging your neighbor’s fence after a dispute about the property line, Washington defines malicious mischief as knowingly causing willful and malicious physical damage to the property of another. This covers a lot of situations and an important factor will revolve around the alleged level of “malice” or intent to cause harm. This is because if the property was damaged by accident, it is cannot be considered a crime and should be addressed civilly.
Another element of malicious mischief under the Revised Code of Washington (RCW 9A.48.070 – 9A.48.090) is the extent and value of the damage in question. Specifically, physical damage includes diminishing the property’s worth as well as the total or partial alteration, damage, obliteration, or erasure of information or electronic records, in addition to causing the impairment, interruption, or interference with the use of any computer or services provided by computers.
Degrees & Penalties of Malicious Mischief
Malicious mischief is separated into three degrees which are determined by the value of the damaged items and carry distinct penalties as either felony or misdemeanor offenses. Additionally, domestic violence related malicious mischief charges can also be filed if you have a past or present domestic relationship with the property owner. These domestic violence related mischief charges usually stem from accusations made by one party and with law enforcement’s obligation to make mandatory arrests in volatile domestic situations, these can complicate someone’s life, very quickly. If a domestic violence designation is added to your charge, the penalties are heightened and may include a No Contact Order and the loss of your gun rights if convicted.
- Malicious Mischief in the Third-Degree (RCW 9A.48.090) – This involves property damage of $750 or less as well as writing, painting, or drawing any inscription, figure, or mark of any type on a public or private building or other structure or any real or personal property owned by any other person unless the person has obtained the express permission of the owner. This is considered a gross misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. If the value of the damage is less than $50, it will be treated as a simple misdemeanor, penalized with a possible jail term of no longer than 90 days and fines of no more than $1,000.
- Malicious Mischief in the Second Degree (RCW 9A.48.080) – This level refers to damaged property over $750, but not more than $5,000 or creating a substantial risk of service interruption by physically tampering with an emergency vehicle, a mode of public transportation, a public utility, or state property. This is classified as a class C felony and is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Under the state’s sentencing guidelines, an individual with no prior criminal history can expect up to a 60-day sentence and up to 18 months if you do have prior convictions.
- Malicious Mischief in the First Degree (RCW 9A.48.070) – This is the highest level of malicious mischief charge and relates to the value of property damaged in excess of $5,000 or causing an impairment to the safety, efficiency, or operation of an aircraft by physically damaging or tampering with the aircraft or equipment, fuel, lubricant, or parts. It is pursued as a class B felony and can result in a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. Most will not receive the maximum prison sentence under Washington’s sentencing guidelines, but an individual may realistically spend between 90-days and six months in custody if you have no prior criminal history.
In addition to reimbursing the party in question for the property damage, possible incarceration, and the fines associated with a malicious mischief conviction, you may also have to deal with a domestic violence enhancement or the lasting consequences to your criminal record. Even if you avoid time in custody, any felony or domestic violence-related conviction on your record will have a significant effect on your future opportunities. This makes it imperative to work with a dedicated malicious mischief lawyer towards a positive resolution.
Defending Against Malicious Mischief Charges
In a domestic situation or when people are claiming that their personal property was damaged, it is not unusual for false or exaggerated accusations to be made. This could be for any number of reasons, such as to influence divorce or custody arraignments or increase the amount to be repaid by insurance. If you find yourself in a situation where someone is being untruthful about your actions or a simple mistake is putting you at risk, by working with a skilled Tacoma malicious mischief attorney, you can raise your objections and build an effective defense strategy.
Regardless of the events that led to your particular malicious mischief charge, your attorney can seek alternative solutions and present your version of events to secure the best possible outcome. If making financial restitution to the individual or business affected is possible, your malicious mischief attorney can potentially facilitate a dismissal or amendment to your charges. Your attorney can also negotiate for a lesser, more appropriate result based on the circumstances, facilitate your inclusion in any available diversion or anger management programs, or secure another favorable conclusion like probation or community service.
Contact a Tacoma Malicious Mischief Attorney Today
Dealing with criminal accusations for damaging someone’s property in either a domestic violence situation or any other setting can be extremely stressful and embarrassing. At The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield PLLC, we understand what you are going through and what it will take to defend yourself.
To learn more about how Tacoma malicious mischief lawyer Morgan Fletcher Benfield can help if you’re charged with any level of malicious mischief or destruction of property, call (253) 518-3643 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.