Massachusetts considers malicious destruction of property as whenever someone willfully destroys or injures another person's property. A good example of this might be a graffiti artist who uses a paint spray can to tag a bus stop shelter.
Generally, there are two types of the MDP charge, which are distinguished by the intentions of the offender as well as the amount of damage his or her actions caused. For example, a graffiti tagger who writes his or her name in spray paint onto an abandoned car might receive a misdemeanor charge. Whereas, that same person might be facing felony MDP charges for using that spray paint can to write racial epithets on headstones located in a cemetery.
According to the Massachusetts statute, the monetary amount of $250 is also a determining factor in the level of punishment prosecutors will seek. Generally, destruction of property worth less than $250 is punishable by up to 2.5 months in jail and up to three times the cost of the destroyed property. Alternatively, defendants convicted of destroying property valued at more than $250 can face up to 10 years in state prison and a fine of $3, 000 or three times the value of the destroyed property – whichever is greater.
Your defense attorney will likely challenge the prosecution's case on at least two fronts. Either he or she will most certainly try to ascertain the true value of the items you allegedly destroyed. Your attorney will likely consult a valuation expert to prove that the items you allegedly destroyed were below the $250 threshold.
In addition to challenging the destroyed property's value, your attorney may also argue about your mental state at the time the alleged crime occurred. For example, he or she may point out that your actions were not those of someone attempting to consciously disregard the safety of others. They might also challenge whether your intentions were to cause substantial harm to someone in particular. Using the above-mentioned analogy, a person spray painting a bus stop shelter with his or her own name is probably not engaging in that activity with the hopes of upsetting a particular bus driver.
A Massachusetts criminal defense attorney with experience in MDP cases can examine the facts of your case and help you determine a sound defensive strategy. If successful, your attorney can help you receive a reduction in charges or a complete dismissal in some instances.
Source: Massachusetts District Courts- Jury Instructions, "Instruction 8.260 2009 Edition Wanton destruction of property," accessed April. 06, 2015