In Washington State, Malicious Mischief or Destruction of Property charges are filed when a person is believed to have knowingly and maliciously caused physical damage to the property of another person or business.
Malicious Mischief charges are very commonly associated with domestic violence (DV) calls. Law enforcement is trained to look for and ask the alleged victim if property has been damaged.
Most arrests that we investigate are based on the alleged victim's accusations, which are often inaccurate or exaggerated. The arresting police officer will sometimes pressure an alleged victim to agree with what they believe happened.
In cases where there was an admission of guilt or there are credible witnesses to collaborate the accuser's story, a case dismissal or significant reduction may still be possible.
For example, there is a Compromise of Misdemeanor law in WA State that can be used to prevent a criminal conviction if:
- The victim agrees to be compensated for the damaged property
- The judge receives proof that the victim was compensated
- There was no intent to commit a felony crime
- The property damage or vandalism did not occur during a riot or against a public official
- You do not have a current or past domestic relationship (family member, romantic partner, roommate) with the victim
Malicious Mischief 3 (3rd degree) can have a domestic violence (DV) designation attached to the charge if the defendant has a current or past domestic relationship with the alleged victim. There are enhanced penalties for a Malicious Mischief 3 DV conviction.
If a domestic relationship can be established, there are often questions about who owns the property and who was responsible for damaging it. In addition, a prosecutor must prove that the defendant's intent was to damage the property and not the result of an accident.
When law enforcement arrives at a residence to investigate a domestic disturbance, they will be looking for destroyed property in addition to signs of an assault. For this reason, Malicious Mischief or Destruction of Property are commonly charged on the same incident report as a DV assault. A criminal law attorney should fight all charges that are on the incident report.What are Penalties for Malicious Mischief?
In Washington State, Malicious Mischief can be charged as a gross misdemeanor or a felony. The charges are based on the dollar amount of the damaged or vandalized property.3rd Degree Malicious Mischief
- Gross Misdemeanor
- Property damage or vandalism is $750 or less
- Maximum jail time is 364 days
- Maximum fine is $5000
- Class C felony
- Property damage or vandalism is more than $750 but does not exceed $5000
- Maximum jail time is 5 years
- Maximum fine is $10,000
- Class B felony
- Property damage or vandalism exceeds $5000
- Maximum jail time is 10 years
- Maximum fine is $20,000
In Washington State, the name of the crime depends on the court that handles the criminal complaint. For example, in Seattle and Tacoma Municipal Courts, the official name of the crime is Destruction of Property. Malicious Mischief is the name of the charge in the Bellevue, Puyallup, Kent, Olympia, and Lakewood, WA courts.
Destruction of Property and Vandalism are subject to the same property damage limits and criminal consequences as Malicious Mischief.How do I get Malicious Mischief Charges Dropped or Reduced?
There are many objections that can be raised by a good Malicious Mischief attorney. For example, it can be very difficult to determine the intent of the defendant. If your case went all the way to a jury trial, WA State has the burden to prove (beyond a reasonable doubt) that you intended to damage or vandalize the property in question.
For a felony Malicious Mischief 2 charge, the dollar value that the prosecution places on the damaged property is an issue for negotiations. It can be very difficult to determine the value of used property.
In a domestic violence Malicious Mischief case, it can be difficult to prove who owns the damaged property. These types of evidentiary issues can lead to a full case dismissal (dropped charges), not guilty verdict, slow dismissal, or reduced criminal charges.
It is important to discuss your property crime charges with an experienced Malicious Mischief lawyer. Only an attorney should tell your side of the story.
At Beckwith Law, we have extensive experience defending clients from property destruction crimes and domestic violence in Pierce County, King County, Snohomish County, Kitsap County, and Thurston County courts, including Tacoma, Seattle, Bellevue, Puyallup, Kent, Olympia, and Lakewood, WA.
We have office locations in Seattle and Tacoma and we can be called any day of the week (including after-hours) for a free consultation.