Vandalism is willfully and maliciously or wantonly destroying or defacing someone else’s real or personal property. Under Massachusetts criminal law, the crime of Vandalism may be found at Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 266, Section 126A.
Legal Elements of Vandalism
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In order to be found guilty of Vandalism under Massachusetts criminal law, there must be strong evidence of the following legal elements:
- that the defendant painted, marked, scratched, etched, injured, marred, defaced, or destroyed property
- that the defendant did so intentionally
- that the defendant did so willfully with malice or wantonly
- that the property was owned or possessed by someone other than the defendant
A person acts willfully if he or she intends both the conduct and its harmful consequences. An act is done with “malice” if it is done out of cruelty, hostility or revenge. To act with malice, one must act not only deliberately, but out of cruelty, hostility or revenge toward another.
A person acts wantonly by acting recklessly or with indifference to the fact that his or her conduct would probably cause substantial injury to, or destruction of, another’s property. The Commonwealth must prove that the defendant consciously disregarded or was indifferent to this probability.
Conduct is wanton if (1) the defendant knew it would create a risk of substantial injury or destruction to another’s property, or (2) a reasonable person knowing what the defendant knew would have realized the act posed a risk of substantial injury to or destruction of another’s property.
Examples of Vandalism
Vandalism is usually charged when someone destroys or damages property in a manner that defaces, mars, or otherwise adds a physical blemish that diminishes the property’s value. This sometimes is also known as graffiti or tagging, which are both considered vandalism. Some examples of vandalism include the following:
- Putting a bumper sticker on another person’s car.
- Spray-painting your name on another person’s fence, home or building.
- Carving your initials into public park trees or public benches.
- Writing your name on a store window with a marker.
- Keying a car or puncturing its tires.
- Breaking a building’s windows.
- Knocking over grave markers.
Potential Punishment if Convicted of Vandalism in Massachusetts
The potential consequences for Vandalism, if convicted, in the Commonwealth may be found at Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 266, Section 126A. A defendant convicted of Vandalism shall be punished by imprisonment in state prison for a term of not more than 3 years or in a house of correct for not more than 2 years.