In Washington State, Malicious Mischief charges are filed when a person is believed to have knowingly and maliciously caused physical damage to the property of another person or business. Most arrests are based upon the alleged victim's accusations, which are often times inaccurate and exaggerated. A timely intervention by a defense attorney can sometimes prevent criminal charges from being filed.
In cases where there was an admission of guilt or there are credible witnesses to collaborate the accuser's story, a case dismissal 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 did not occur during a riot or against an official
- You do not have a current or past domestic relationship with the victim
Malicious Mischief 3 (3rd degree) can have a domestic violence designation attached to the charge if the defendant has a current or past domestic relationship with the complaining witness. There are enhanced penalties for a Domestic Violence Malicious Mischief 3 conviction.
If a domestic relationship can be established, there are often times questions about who actually owns the damaged property and who damaged it. Statements made by the complaining witness are frequently untrue or exaggerated. In addition, prosecutors must prove that the defendant's intent was to damage the property in question and not the result of an accident.Penalties & Fines
In Washington State, Malicious Mischief can be charged as a gross misdemeanor or a felony. The charges are based upon 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 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 exceeds $5000
- Maximum jail time is 10 years
- Maximum fine is $20,000
The name of the crime varies depending upon the court that handles the criminal complaint. In Seattle and Tacoma Municipal Court, the official name of the crime is Destruction of Property. Malicious Mischief is the name of the charge in the Puyallup, Olympia, and Lakewood, WA courts. Destruction of Property and Vandalism are subject to the same property damage limits and criminal consequences as Malicious Mischief.Defending Malicious Mischief Charges
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 accused. If the case proceeded to a jury trial, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to damage the property in question.
Another issue for negotiations is the dollar value that the prosecution places on the damaged property. It can be very difficult to determine the value of used property. These types of evidentiary issues can lead to a full case dismissal, not guilty verdict, or reduced criminal charges.
It is important to discuss your property crime charges with an experienced Malicious Mischief lawyer. Cristine Beckwith has extensive experience defending clients from property crimes in Pierce County, King County, and Thurston County courts, including Tacoma, Seattle, Puyallup, Federal Way, Lakewood, and Olympia, WA. Cristine will carefully examine all evidentiary issues and fight the allegations you are facing. As your attorney, she will explore all possible legal remedies and defend you at trial if it becomes necessary.