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Destruction of Property charges in Massachusetts

Property crimes are common in Massachusetts and they range from minor misdemeanors to more serious felonies. One of the more serious charges is malicious destruction under MGL chapter 266 section 127.

To prove a charge of malicious destruction the prosecution must show that the property was damaged by the defendant, that the defendant damaged the property willfully and maliciously and the value of the damage. To prove that a defendant acted willfully or maliciously the prosecutor must present evidence that the defendant intended to harm the property and that they did so out of revenge or hostility towards the owner. The severity of the punishment depends on the value of the damage.

Malicious destruction of property valued over $250.00 is a felony in Massachusetts and is punishable by up to:

  • Ten years in the state prison
  • A fine of the greater of $3,000 or three times the value of the damaged property and
  • Up to 2 ½ years in jail

Malicious destruction of property under $250 is a misdemeanor punishable by up to:

  • A fine of three times the value of the damage of the property and
  • Up to 2½ years in jail
Wanton Destruction

Alternatively you can be charged with wanton destruction of property meaning that you damaged the property without malice but that the likely effect of your conduct was substantial harm to the property.

An example of the difference between malicious and wanton is given in Mass Model Jury instructions. If a person throws rocks off a bridge and hits a car by accident his conduct can be said to be wanton. Contrast that with someone who throws rocks off a bridge while aiming at the cars below, that conduct is said to be malicious.

Wanton destruction is a misdemeanor punishable by
  • A fine of up to one thousand five hundred dollars ($1,500.00) or up to three times the value of the property, whichever is greater;
  • Up to 2½ years in jail
Special Categories

Destruction of certain types of property can incur more serious penalties

  • Vehicles
  • Destruction of certain buildings-such as schools or churches
  • Graffiti/Defacement of property-This offense also carries a one-year license loss.

It is important that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney when facing any of the above offenses. These offenses can often be motivated by anger in the heat of the moment but can have long lasting effects. These cases are defensible but you will need to discuss your specific case with an attorney to decide how to proceed.