Definition of Malicious Destruction of Property
In Maryland, a person is prohibited from “willfully and maliciously” destroying, injuring or defacing the real or personal property of another person. Real or personal property can be a home, vehicle, or any other item of value. This is basically vandalism–breaking windows, slashing tires, graffiti, smashing a phone or computer, or anything else that causes intentional or reckless destruction.
Malicious destruction is a misdemeanor offense in Maryland. The maximum penalties for this crime depends on the value of the property damage. If the damage is less than $500, then the maximum penalty is sixty (60) days in jail and/or a $500 fine. For damage equal to or greater than $500 the maximum penalty is three (3) years and/or a $2,500 fine. The fines are in addition to any restitution for damages that the Court may order.
Potential Defenses to Malicious Destruction
It is not a crime simply to destroy or devalue another’s property. The State must prove that the accused destroyed the property in a willful and malicious manner, so there may be a defense that the destruction of property was purely an accident. Just because someone is accident-prone or negligent does not make them automatically guilty!
Another defense is that the person accused simply did not do it. Particularly if it is someone who the property owner does not know there may be an issue as to the identification of the accused. There may be a defense that the prosecutor cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt who the actual perpetrator of the crime actually is.
How Can a Lawyer Help Someone Charged With Malicious Destruction?
In addition to preparing any potential defenses for trial–that the accused did not commit the offense, did not intend to cause property damage, etc.–a lawyer can help in a number of other ways to keep the accused out of jail and potentially help prevent there being a conviction. A savvy lawyer in a case like this can determine whether the State has properly summonsed the right witnesses (i.e. the actual property owner) to trial and know if they have not property prepared their case. Alternatively, a lawyer may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to have the accused pay restitution in advance of the trial in exchange for the State dropping the charges or placing the case on the stet docket.
If you or someone you know is facing charges for malicious destruction of property in Maryland, contact the Law Offices of Christopher Peretti today at 301-875-3472, and have a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.