When law enforcement officers respond to the scene of a domestic disturbance, they are trained to look for more than just signs of physical abuse. In Washington, the knowing, malicious destruction of another person's property is against the law. Known as the crime of malicious mischief, it is not uncommon for these charges to occur along with domestic violence charges. In the heat of a domestic situation, the destruction of property is often a precursor to physical violence.
What is Malicious Mischief?
To be charged with Malicious Mischief in Washington State, you must knowingly and maliciously cause physical damage to the property of another person. That means that accidental damage does not count. According to RCW 9A.48.100, physical damage is defined as follows:
(1)"Physical damage," in addition to its ordinary meaning, shall include the total or partial alteration, damage, obliteration, or erasure of records, information, data, computer programs, or their computer representations, which are recorded for use in computers or the impairment, interruption, or interference with the use of such records, information, data, or computer programs, or the impairment, interruption, or interference with the use of any computer or services provided by computers. "Physical damage" also includes any diminution in the value of any property as the consequence of an act.
(2) If more than one item of property is physically damaged as a result of a common scheme or plan by a person and the physical damage to the property would, when considered separately, constitute mischief in the third degree because of value, then the value of the damages may be aggregated in one count. If the sum of the value of all the physical damages exceeds two hundred fifty dollars, the defendant may be charged with and convicted of malicious mischief in the second degree.
There are three types of malicious mischief charges. Cases where the damaged goods were worth more than $5,000 are charged as first-degree malicious mischief. Cases where the damages are more than $750 but less than $5,000 are charged as second-degree malicious mischief. And cases where the damages are less than $750 are charged as third-degree malicious mischief.
Malicious Mischief: A Hypothetical Example
Consider an example: your spouse instigates an argument with you. It could be about anything. The argument becomes heated. While you never lay a hand on your spouse, in a moment of anger you grab her prescription glasses off of the kitchen counter and snap them into pieces. Now the police have arrived, and you are being charged with Malicious Mischief in the third degree. While you never assaulted anyone, your intentional destruction of your spouse's property is enough to catch a charge.
It could be worse: if instead of a snapping a pair of glasses you had taken a baseball bat to a vehicle, you could be facing a felony charge of first-degree malicious mischief.
The Law Offices of Steve Karimi
Malicious mischief charges are serious regardless if they are classified as a domestic violence crime. If you are facing malicious mischief charges the Law Offices of Steve Karimi can help. Contact them today to set up your free consultation.