Destruction of Property

How to Mitigate Charges Against Malicious Destruction of Property

Whether deliberate vandalism or reckless impairment, any type of property damage can land you a criminal charge for malicious damage. However, the potential penalty you receive is mainly dependent on the circumstances of the crime, the severity of the offense, and whether you have an existing criminal record. Learn how to navigate malicious destruction charges by knowing its implications and what actions may affect your case. 

What Penalties Come with Malicious Destruction?

The penalty you receive will rely on whether the court determines you acted deliberately or carelessly. If the actions are deemed willful, they can carry a sentence of up to two-and-a-half years in jail. Fines will equate to triple the cost of damage or $3,000—whichever amount is more significant. 

If the actions are deemed careless, the sentence is the same, though fines are limited to only three times the cost of damage or $1,500. For damages under $250, punishments are far less severe, though you may still be sentenced to jail for up to two-and-a-half months. 

What Happens if You Leave the Scene?

Suppose you are driving under the influence and hit a stop sign or hydrant. Worried that you are over the legal limit, you abandon the scene and continue to drive home. If an officer apprehends you or a neighboring driver reports your license plate number, you may be up against two criminal charges. These charges include malicious damage and leaving the location of the property damage. 

Is Malicious Destruction of Property a Felony?

Felony charges may occur depending on the type of property you vandalize. Some of these buildings or locations are under special protections due to their sacred or sensitive natures and can result in a felony charge if purposely defaced. These locations include: 

  • Educational institutions or schools
  • Community centers
  • Memorials
  • Cemeteries or burial grounds
  • Houses of worship
  • Mosques
  • Synagogues
  • Churches

If the damage inflicted is over $5,000, you can potentially face up to five years in prison. Below $5,000, penalties include up to two-and-a-half years in jail and fines of up to triple the damage cost, or $2,000—whichever amount is higher.  

Does Graffiti Count as Malicious Damage?

Nowadays, graffiti is becoming more universally accepted and even celebrated as a legitimate art form. However, the intentional application of graffiti on someone else’s property remains a criminal offense for lack of consent. 

What encompasses these properties include: walls, signs, fences, monuments, or buildings. Graffiti, or defacement of property, can enforce a penalty of up to three years in jail and three times the cost of damage or $1,500—whichever amount is higher. 

In more severe cases, defacement of property can lead to the suspension of a license. 


If you find yourself facing a charge for malicious destruction of property, work with your criminal attorney to distinguish whether the act was deliberate or merely negligent. As much as possible, never leave the scene of property damage to avoid a double charge. 

Work with the best criminal defense lawyers in Boston at The Fernandez Firm. We can provide the best possible protection if your case goes federal. Call us up for a free and confidential initial consultation.