If I’m charged with Malicious Destruction of Property what does that mean?
First, it means you have been charged with a crime. It also means you are being charged with destroying, damaging or defacing property belonging to someone else. Deface means that you changed the appearance of something and made it look worse.
Graffiti is a type of malicious destruction of property where you are accused making a permanent drawing, permanent painting or permanent mark. The malicious part means you are accused of doing this or acts on purpose. For example, you can’t accidentally use a spray can to write words on a brick wall.
In Maryland, it is considered a misdemeanor offense.
Yes, depending on how much damage you are accused of doing. You can be sentenced to either up to sixty (60) days if the damage is under $500. You can go to jail for up to three (3) years if the damage to property is $500 or more.
No, and unlike a speeding ticket, you must go to court and when your case is called on the day of trial, then Judge will want to know if you are represented by a lawyer. You should consider having one.
If the Malicious Destruction of Property causes damages less than $500, you can be fined up to $500. If the damage is $500 or more, you can be fined up to $2500.
You can be forced to make restitution or perform community service if you are charged with writing graffiti. Remember court fines are paid to the court. Restitution is paid to the person who had their property defaced by graffiti.
Restitution will be determined to be the cost it takes to clean or restore the property to what it looked like before the graffiti. Community service means you can be forced by the court to do supervised work for as many hours as the Judge decides is right to make up for the damage.
It sounds like the penalties for Malicious Prosecution really go up a lot depending on the value of the damage to the property. How do they determine if it is $500 or more?
Good question. The court can rely on receipts, appraisals, contractor estimates even testimony from the property owner(s ) on what they paid for the property. Remember though that the $500 value is based on damage. If something is destroyed, then it will be the cost to replace what is lost. Some things my not have values or repair costs that are easy to determine. If the Court thinks it is unclear, the value will be assumed to be under $500, and the lesser penalties will apply.
How do they prove that the crime was done maliciously? What if I said I did it, but I was only having some fun hanging out with friends?
This crime requires that your intent was malicious and willful. That means you are charged with destroying, damaging or defacing property with the desire or the intent to do so. Malice does not require that you were trying to make someone miserable, that you disliked them or even knew the property owner. It just means that when you did something you knew what you were doing and that it would harm the property.
If you are doing something accidentally, there cannot be malice. If there is no malice, there is no intent and no crime.
Sometimes you can be caught in the act. Some acts will speak for themselves. You don’t mistakenly write graffiti on a wall. If you grab a precious ceramic vase above your head then smash it on the ground, it will be assumed you did it with the intent of breaking it. However, a car accident is almost always assumed to be just that, a mistake where nobody wanted to cause injury or harm.
They don’t have to prove I said I wanted to harm the property or the person owning it?
No, not if it is obviously an act of destruction or they can show by other ways that your act was clearly to destroy, damage or deface the property belonging to another person.
If you are accused of Malicious Destruction of Property in Maryland, by going onto someone else’s land or property without permission, you could also be charged with criminal trespass. That means going somewhere where you are not permitted.
If the graffiti consisted of language that could be viewed as attacking mocking or belittling another race, religion, ethnic group, or other protected group of people, you could be charged with committing a hate crime. This could make your matter much more serious.
Hiring a lawyer maybe the most important decision you can make. A lawyer will know all the elements necessary for you to be convicted and can attack any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case against you. This includes witness identification, proving criminal intent and the value of the damage. They can discuss the case in detail with the prosecutor and see if the case can be resolved without a full trial and with terms that may benefit you.
Malicious destruction of property can often be resolved successfully for someone charged, but there are many factors and variables that can determine the outcome. Every case is different.
You should consult with an experienced criminal attorney such as those associated with the Law Offices of Randolph Rice to determine the best strategy for handling your matter. If you are charged don’t wait till the last second to decide how you will handle your case. Have your matter looked at by a professional today.
(a) Prohibited.- A person may not willfully and maliciously destroy, injure, or deface the real or personal property of another.
(b) Penalty – Property damage of at least $500.- A person who, in violation of this section, causes damage of at least $500 to the property is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding $2,500 or both.
(c) Same – Property damage of less than $500.- A person who, in violation of this section, causes damage of less than $500 to the property is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 60 days or a fine not exceeding $500 or both.
(d) Same – Restitution for graffiti.-
(1) For purposes of this subsection, an act of “graffiti” means a permanent drawing, permanent painting, or a permanent mark or inscription on the property of another without the permission of the owner of the property.
(2) In addition to the penalties set forth in subsections (b) and (c) of this section, the court shall order a person convicted of causing malicious destruction by an act of graffiti to pay restitution or perform community service or both.
(3) Title 11, Subtitle 6 of the Criminal Procedure Article applies to an order of restitution under this subsection.
(e) Aggregation of damages.- aggregate value of damage to each property resulting from one scheme or continuing course of conduct.
(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, to determine a penalty, the court may consider as one crime the aggregate value of damage to each property resulting from one scheme or continuing course of conduct.
(2) If separate acts resulting in damage to the properties of one or more owners are set forth by separate counts in one or more charging documents, the separate counts may not be merged for sentencing.
(f) Value of damages.-
(1) The value of damage is not a substantive element of a crime under this section and need not be stated in the charging document.
(2) The value of damage shall be based on the evidence and that value shall be applied for the purpose of imposing the penalties established in this section.
(3) If it cannot be determined from the evidence whether the value of the damage to the property is more or less than $500, the value is deemed to be less than $500.
Source: [An. Code 1957, art. 27, § 111; 2002, ch. 26, § 2.]