Destruction of property in Maryland is also called malicious destruction of property. It’s a misdemeanor offense but you may end up serving jail time. This crime can take many different forms. If you were arrested or charged with the destruction of someone else’s property in Maryland, read on about the sentencing guidelines from our Baltimore malicious destruction of property lawyers.
What is the Definition of Destruction of Property in Maryland?
Maryland law defines the malicious destruction of property as “willfully and maliciously” damaging, destroying, or defacing real or personal property belonging to somebody else.
At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, we can give detailed answers to all of your questions about the destruction of property in Maryland and meet with you after an arrest.
Will I Go to Jail for the Destruction of Property in Maryland?
You may be imprisoned for the malicious destruction of property in Maryland but this depends on the circumstances of the case and the amount of damage you caused.
The penalties for property destruction in Maryland depend on the degree of damage caused. If the damage amounts to at least $500, you could face up to three years behind bars. You may also be fined up to $2,500, states Maryland Criminal Law Section 6-301.
Damage under $500 can land you in jail for up to 60 days and lead to a fine of $500. Although both crimes are misdemeanors, the $500 threshold makes a lot of difference. You may escape jail for defacing property to the tune of a few hundred dollars but there are no guarantees. No specific value needs to be proved by the prosecution to bring the lesser offense.
Does the Destruction of Property in Maryland Include Graffiti?
Yes. Illicit drawings or scribblings on buildings fall under the destruction of property definition. However, the graffiti must be permanent. For instance, chalk writing that washes off with the first rain is not covered by the section.
Graffiti is defined as a permanent drawing, permanent painting, or a permanent inscription, or mark on the property of another person made without the permission of the owner of the property.
As well as the penalties we mention in this blog, the court typically orders the graffiti artist to pay restitution, perform community service or both following a conviction for malicious destruction.
How Does the Court Calculate the Value for Malicious Destruction in Maryland?
The court may add together the “aggregate value” of your destruction. In other words, if you covered six buildings with graffiti over the course of two weeks, the court may consider the “aggregate value of damage to each property resulting from one scheme or continuing course of conduct.” This would likely exceed the $500 threshold.
However, if separate acts to the properties of one or more owners’ properties are presented in separate counts in one or more charging documents, the separate counts cannot be merged for sentencing purposes.
The courts rely on appraisals, receipts, estimates given by contractors, and possibly testimony from property owners to get an idea of the value of the property and the cost to remedy the damage. However, if something is destroyed, the damage is the cost to replace what was lost or the cost of getting it back to normal. It can be difficult to reach an accurate repair cost figure. If the value of the damage is unclear it is assumed to be under $500, and the lesser penalties will apply to the defendant.
How is Malice Proved in the Destruction of Property in Maryland?
Destruction of property requires an element of malice. This is a somewhat archaic term. It does not mean the law requires the defendant to have had a personal vendetta against the property owner. He or she may not have known the owner to be guilty of malicious destruction. However, you must have known what you were doing and that it would harm the property. If two boys are kicking around a soccer ball and a wayward kick causes it to smash a window, their actions are unlikely to be judged to be malicious. If you accidentally damage property there can be no crime. However, reckless acts in which the risk of damage should have been obvious, are gray areas.
Can the Penalties for Destruction of Property in Maryland Be Linked to Other Crimes?
People charged with destruction of property in Maryland may commit other offenses. For example, you can be charged with criminal trespass if you were on someone else’s property without permission.
Graffiti can land you in more trouble with the law if it’s of a threatening nature. Racist graffiti or words targeting people based on their religion or sexual orientation can lead to hate crime charges.
What Are the Main Defenses to Malicious Destruction of Property in Maryland?
It can be difficult for the prosecution to prove you intended to damage property. Of course, if you painted on graffiti with a spray can it’s not easy to claim you did not intend to damage the property. Other acts are more nuanced. Defenses to destruction of property include:
- It was an accident. For instance, if you lost control of your car and crashed into a property, you did not act maliciously.
- You are accident-prone.
- You did not cause the damage. In some cases, there is an issue about the identity of the accused. Even evidence such video footage is not always clear.
Talk to a Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer About Destruction of Property
An experienced Maryland destruction of property lawyer can prove invaluable in your defense. A lawyer is aware of the elements needed to secure a conviction as well as the many defenses. An attorney can fight prosecution evidence relating to your intent and the value of damage. When damage exceeds $500, the potential consequences of destruction of property in Maryland become more serious. At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, we will look at all of the evidence used by the prosecution to give a value to the damage and fight your corner. A dogged Baltimore criminal defense lawyer will make sure the prosecution prepared its case properly. We can sometimes negotiate with a prosecutor to have the accused pay restitution in advance before the trial in exchange for a lesser sentence or the dropping of the case.
if you or a family member has been charged with destruction of property in Maryland, it’s important to seek legal advice as soon as possible, Talk to Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 834-3740.