Destruction of Property

In Massachusetts, the destruction of property can be, and is usually, considered a criminal offense.  Whether you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor depends on the level of scienter (criminal intent) you exhibited during the commission of the crime.

Malicious Destruction of Property refers to the intentional destruction or damage to the property, dwelling, or building of another, and is punishable by:
  • 10 years in state prison; OR
  • $3,000 fine or 3 times the value of the property destroyed/ damaged, whichever is greater

Malicious destruction of property is often mischarged. I have seen police officers charge someone with this offense for damage associated with a motor vehicle accident. That was not the legislative purpose for this statute, which requires some level of criminal intent on the part of the person being charged.

Wanton Destruction of Property refers to the damaging or destroying the property, dwelling, or building of another by a reckless act that disregards the risk of such damage or destruction, and is punishable by:

  • 2 1/2 years in jail; OR
  • $1,500 fine or 3 times the value of the property destroyed/ damaged, whichever is greater

If the damage caused to the property, dwelling, or building of another is not alleged to exceed $250, then the maximum penalty is:

  • 2 1/2 months in jail; OR
  • 3 times the value of the property destroyed/ damaged

Defacement of Real or Personal Property is a felony. In order to be convicted, the prosecution must prove that you did:

  1. Intentionally, willfully and maliciously, or wantonly (recklessly)
  2. Paint, mark, scratch, etch, or otherwise mark, injure, mar, deface or destroy
  3. the real or personal property of another including but not limited to a wall, fence, building, sign, rock, monument, gravestone or tablet

and is punishable by:

  1. 3 years in state prison OR $15,000 fine or 3 times the value of the damaged property; AND
  2. payment for the removal of the obliteration to the property. 
  3. 1 year suspension of driver's license (mandatory upon conviction)

If the property damaged is a war or veteran's memorial or gravestone, the fine under this statute is DOUBLED and the person is required to perform a minimum 500 hours of court-approved community service.

"Tagging" is often associated with juveniles, and is usually committed in urban areas, but for purposes of the criminal statute is encompasses a broader range of conduct than is usually associated with the term.

Under MGL c. 266 s. 126B, in addition to the most common form of "tagging" which is the spraying or applying of paint upon a building, wall, fence, sign, tablet, gravestone, monument or other object or thing on a public way or adjoined to it, or in public view, or on private property, the term also refers to just placing a sticker on any of the above surfaces. If you are merely trying to promote a brand or event, and place a sticker on any of the above surfaces without permission, you can be charged with tagging.

Tagging is punishable by:

  1. 2 years in jail
  2. Fine of $1,500 or 3 times the value of any damage caused by the tagging
  3. 1 year suspension of driver's license (mandatory upon conviction)
  4. payment for the cost of removing the tag.

If you have been charged with malicious destruction of property, or any other property crime in Massachusetts, contact our office for your free initial consultation:

(617) 830- 2188


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