By: South Sound Law Group

What is Malicious Mischief?


What is the Definition of Malicious Mischief?

Commonly associated with domestic violence cases, malicious mischief is defined as what occurs when a person knowingly and maliciously causes physical damage to the property of another person or business.

It is common in domestic violence cases due to the number of issues that arise with prior loved ones and previously shared property. If a former loved one chooses to destroy property rather than harm an individual to avoid criminal charges, they may still be susceptible to penalties and fines through malicious mischief.

Compromise of Misdemeanor

Washington state has a unique part of its legislature in that if a crime such as malicious mischief is mitigated by positive actions and payment of restitution to the victim, the charges may be lessened or dropped.

According to Washington State Legislature, when a defendant is prosecuted in a criminal action for a misdemeanor, for which the person injured by the act constituting the offense has a remedy by a civil action, the crime may be compromised.

RCW 10.22.020 goes on to say that “if the party injured appears in the court in which the cause is pending at any time before the final judgment therein, and acknowledge, in writing, that he or she has received satisfaction for the injury, the court may, in its discretion, on payment of the costs incurred, order all proceedings to be discontinued and the defendant to be discharged. The reasons for making the order must be set forth therein and entered in the minutes. Such order is a bar to another prosecution for the same offense.”

Each situation, of course, will be addressed on a case-by-case basis and, as stated above, will be at the discretion of the courts.

Can Compromise of a Misdemeanor Actually Work?

There are a few elements that need to be proven in order to have a fair chance at compromising a misdemeanor.

  1.  The victim will need to agree to receive compensation for the damaged property, and this agreement must be documented.
  2.  The judge must obtain proof of the agreement from both parties.
  3.  The judge must receive evidence that the agreed-upon compensation has been paid.
  4.  There was no intent on behalf of the offender to commit a felony crime.
  5.  The actions resulting in a malicious mischief charge did not occur during a riot.
  6.  The actions resulting in a malicious mischief charge did not happen while engaging a public official.
  7.  The offender does not have a current or past domestic relationship with the victim. A domestic relationship consists of a romantic partner, roommate, or family member.

Defense for Malicious Mischief

Even in cases where the accused admits guilt, or there is eyewitness information available, there may be an opportunity to have the charges lessened or dismissed. This stems mainly from the fact that if the charges were, in fact, derived from a domestic abuse situation, it could be challenging to determine who owns the property and whether or not the accused has a right to destroy or damage it.

local lawyer specializing in Tacoma criminal defense can review your case and determine what your options are and how to formulate a strategy for the best outcome.

Penalties for Malicious Mischief

Charges can range from a gross misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the dollar amount associated with the damage that occurred.

1st-degree malicious mischief is considered a Class B felony
The value of the property damage or vandalism totals over $5,000
The maximum fine is $20,000
The maximum jail time is ten years

2nd-degree malicious mischief is considered a Class C felony
The value of the property damage or vandalism totals more than $750 but does not exceed $5,000
The maximum fine is $10,000
The maximum jail time is five years

3rd-degree malicious mischief is considered a gross misdemeanor
The value of the property damage or vandalism totals $750 or less
The maximum fine is $5,000
The maximum jail time is 364 days

You may find similar information regarding the destruction of property charges. This similarity is due to the county that you live in. In some sarees of Washington, the charges will be referred to as malicious mischief; in others, it may read as property damage. Penalties for the same range of damage (a dollar amount) will likely result in the same penalties regardless of how the charges are titled.

Why Work with South Sound Law Group?

For most of us, facing criminal charges is an incredibly confusing and scary time. There may be parts of the story that are not transparent, reasons why we did what we did, and no one seems to want to listen to us.

By working with an experienced and dedicated team of attorneys who share a wide array of skills and combined decades of experience, we are confident in our ability to listen to the facts, investigate to confirm any remaining details, and become fierce and determined advocates for you and your family.

Contact our office today at (253) 383-3328 and let our family work together to protect yours. We offer a free consultation at your request to review the information surrounding your charges and will work together with you to determine the best path. We look forward to serving you.