Malicious Mischief Charges
Malicious Mischief charges can occur when an individual damages the property of another. The owner of the damaged property generally initiates the investigation – usually with a 911 call – but the criminal charge of Malicious Mischief is brought against a defendant by the State of Washington (or a city, if the act occurred within city limits). Generally, law enforcement responds and makes an arrest but, on some occasions, a person doesn’t know they have been charged with the crime until they receive a summons in the mail.
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There are three degrees of Malicious Mischief in Washington.
Third Degree is a misdemeanor. Second and First Degree are felonies. The elements of the charges are as follows:
Malicious Mischief in the Third Degree (Gross Misdemeanor)
- A person is guilty of malicious mischief in the third degree if he or she:
- Knowingly and maliciously causes physical damage to the property of another, under circumstances not amounting to malicious mischief in the first or second degree; or
- Writes, paints, or draws any inscription, figure, or mark of any type on any public or private building or other structure or any real or personal property owned by any other person [unless the person has obtained permission].
Malicious Mischief in the Second Degree (Felony – Class C)
- A person is guilty of malicious mischief in the second degree if he or she knowingly and maliciously:
- Causes physical damage to the property of another in an amount exceeding seven hundred fifty dollars;
- Creates a substantial risk of interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public, by physically damaging or tampering with an emergency vehicle or property of the state, a political subdivision thereof, or a public utility or mode of public transportation, power, or communication; or
- Creates a substantial risk of interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public by, without lawful authority, physically damaging, destroying, or removing an official ballot deposit box or ballot drop box or, without lawful authority, damaging, destroying, removing, or tampering with the contents thereof.
Malicious Mischief in the First Degree (Felony – Class B)
- A person is guilty of malicious mischief in the first degree if he or she knowingly and maliciously:
- Causes physical damage to the property of another in an amount exceeding five thousand dollars;
- Causes an interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public by physically damaging or tampering with an emergency vehicle or property of the state, a political subdivision thereof, or a public utility or mode of public transportation, power, or communication;
- Causes an impairment of the safety, efficiency, or operation of an aircraft by physically damaging or tampering with the aircraft or aircraft equipment, fuel, lubricant, or parts; or
- Causes an interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public by, without lawful authority, physically damaging, destroying, or removing an official ballot deposit box or ballot drop box or, without lawful authority, damaging, destroying, removing, or tampering with the contents thereof.
There Are Multiple Ways To Resolve Malicious Mischief Charges
Malicious Mischief cases are handled in District, Municipal, and Superior Courts. Malicious Mischief in the Third Degree charges are handled in the District and Municipal Courts. These “lower” Courts offer more options regarding how to resolve a Malicious Mischief case rather than going to trial or pleading guilty. Malicious Mischief in the Second and First Degree charges are handled in Superior Court.
At the Misdemeanor Level
Most jurisdictions have some form of a Pre-Trial Diversion Agreement (or PDA), which is a contract between the Defendant and the Prosecuting Authority. With this type of Diversion Agreement, the Court does not sentence a defendant, the Court merely approves the contract between the parties (the Defendant and the Prosecutor). If the defendant abides by the terms of the contract, the Malicious Mischief in the Third Degree case is typically dismissed at the end of the agreed upon term. Procedurally, the case goes onto a long continuance and then ends in a dismissal – there is never a conviction if all the terms are met.
A second option at the Misdemeanor level is entering into a Compromise of Misdemeanor. This happens when the defense attorney for the defendant obtains a signature from the property owner on a document that asserts that the property owner is waiving future civil litigation against the defendant and wishes that the defendant not be prosecuted. This is typically the quickest and least expensive way to have a Malicious Mischief case be dismissed.
If a defendant wishes to not resolve the Malicious Mischief through a Diversion (PDA) or a Compromise, they always have the right to go to trial. At trial, a defendant can require the Prosecutor to prove every element of the Malicious Mischief charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
At the Felony Level
While options are slightly more restrictive than at the Misdemeanor level, Felonies can also be resolved through some type of alternative disposition. Often the best resolution at this level is through Felony Diversion. In a nutshell, Felony Diversion is where the defendant enters into a contract with the Prosecuting attorney where they agree to pay restitution, do some community service, and remain crime free.
If a drug addiction was a contributing factor to the criminal behavior, Drug Court may be an option that results in a dismissal of the charges.
If mental health issues were a contributing factor that led to the crime being committed, Behavioral Health Court may be an option. Successful completion of BHC will also lead to the charge being dismissed.
Lastly, a good defense attorney may be able to convince the Prosecuting Attorney to reduce the Felony Level Malicious Mischief to a Misdemeanor Level Malicious Mischief in exchange for a plea.
If none of these options are a fit, then a defendant always has the ability to set the matter for trial and force the Prosecuting Attorney to prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
Witt Law Group is a criminal defense law firm that serves individuals who have been charged with the crime of Malicious Mischief in Kitsap County and in the City of Gig Harbor. We also handle cases in nearly all the cities within those Counties. We have offices in Gig Harbor and Bremerton for your convenience. We offer free consultations and can be reached at (360) 792-1000 (Bremerton) or (253) 312-3838 (Gig Harbor) or you can text one of our attorneys at (360) 710-0027.
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