Wanton Destruction of Property

Property crimes in the Massachusetts come in different categories.  A person may be arrested or charged with the crime of larceny or theft of property.  Additionally, one may be arrested or charged with crimes related to the damage of certain property.  Wanton Destruction of Property in Massachusetts refers to a type of property destruction where the defendant’s conduct was either indifferent to, or in total disregard to the probable consequences that would occur with respect to the resulting property damage.

In the Commonwealth, Wanton Destruction of Property is treated differently from Wilful and Malicious Destruction of Property in that the latter is a specific intent crime requiring evidence that the actor or defendant intended both his conduct and its consequences.  The Massachusetts crime of Wanton Destruction of Property, however, only requires proof that the defendant’s conduct was indifferent to, or in complete disregard of, the likely consequences of the action taken.  Accordingly, Wanton Destruction of Property is not considered a lesser included offense of Wilful and Malicious Destruction of Property.  It is also not a felony offense.

In Massachusetts, a defendant cannot be convicted of wanton injury or destruction of property unless it was likely that the person’s actions would result in substantial damage to others or their property.  Therefore, under the law it is not enough if there is evidence that some slight or insignificant injury was likely to result to the property.  The law states that a person is said to have acted in a wantonly manner only if it can be shown that his actions would result in substantial harm.  Under this law, however, it is not necessary that the actual damage was substantial.  It is enough to convict a person of this crime if it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s actions were likely to cause substantial damage.  Therefore, the law looks at the nature of the actions and not just the outcome.

Under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 266, section 127, the Wanton Destruction of Property statute, a person convicted of this misdemeanor offense faces a maximum incarceration of up to two and one-half years in the house of correction or by a fine of three times the value of the actual damage or injury to the property.  In the value of the property damaged or injured is less than two hundred fifty dollars, then the punishment maximum is reduced to no more than the crime is punishable by no more than two and one-half years in jail or three times the value of the damaged property.

In order to prove a defendant guilty of this offense beyond a reasonable doubt, the Commonwealth must prove the following things,

1)    That the accused injured or destroyed the personal property, home or building of another person;
2)    That the defendant did so in a wanton manner (meaning that it is likely that his/her actions would result in substantial harm);
3)    (If it is alleged the damage is over $250, this would be the third element that would need to be established.)

Massachusetts courts seek to protect victims of property damage whether or not it is accomplished by a defendant with malicious intent or in a wanton manner.  They aggressively handle such prosecutions and seek restitution for the victim for all damage.  

The Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy has significant experience successfully defending criminal cases involving wanton destruction of property and all other property crimes.  Hiring a skilled lawyer right away is the first step in the legal process to ensure that you legal matter is handled in a manner to eliminate or minimize the criminal exposure that you face.  Please contact Attorney Patrick Murphy today for a free consultation regarding your case.  

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