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Penalties and Defenses for Destruction of Property Charged as Domestic Violence

Criminal Attorneys Serving Tacoma and Surrounding Areas

In Washington, you can be charged for maliciously damaging someone else’s property. This can involve vandalism, or it can involve slashing tires, breaking a door or windows, or spray painting someone else’s walls. If you have a family or household relationship with the victim, this destruction of property may be charged as domestic violence. The penalties for destruction of property charged as domestic violence can be serious, depending on the value of the property, among other factors. At Smith & White, our Tacoma domestic violence lawyers may be able to defend and counsel people in these situations. Jail is not imposed in every case, but if the facts are egregious or if the case is charged as a felony, the court is more likely to impose a jail sentence.

Penalties for Destruction of Property Charged as Domestic Violence

You can be charged for domestic violence destruction of property if you have the appropriate relationship with the victim and have damaged his or her property. The victim and you need to have a family or household relationship for domestic violence to be charged. For example, if you are dating or were dating the victim, and you destroy their property, you could be charged with domestic violence.

When you are first arrested for domestic violence, you will be held in jail until you are seen by a judge. If you are convicted, the penalties will hinge on whether you were charged with a felony or a misdemeanor. There are subcategories of both felonies and misdemeanors, and each of these has maximum penalties. If you are charged with malicious mischief in the third degree, which is a gross misdemeanor, you could face a maximum of 364 days in jail and a maximum $5,000 fine.

There are also felony versions of domestic violence that involve malicious mischief. You can be charged with felony malicious mischief if the damaged property is very valuable. You can face a jail sentence for felony malicious mischief as well as a fine. If you are charged with malicious mischief in the second degree, which is a class C felony, you can face up to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. If you are charged with malicious mischief in the first degree, you can face up to 10 years of imprisonment and a $20,000 fine.

Defenses for Destruction of Property Charged as Domestic Violence

You should not assume that a conviction is inevitable just because there was probable cause to arrest you for domestic violence. The prosecution needs to establish its case beyond a reasonable doubt. In some cases, it is possible for a criminal attorney to defend on the basis of accident. Perhaps you did not intend to damage the property. It can be difficult for a prosecutor to establish intent, particularly since it needs to be established beyond a reasonable doubt. In other cases, it is possible to argue that there was a mistaken identity.

When there is a family or household relationship, there may be issues about whether the victim or the perpetrator owns the property that got damaged. For example, if you broke your own television in a household where your girlfriend was living, this could be a strong defense against the domestic violence charge.

Similarly, it can be challenging for a prosecutor to properly determine the value of the property that was damaged. Malicious mischief is subcategorized based on the value of the property. If you are charged with felony malicious mischief in the first degree because the property was supposedly $2,000 in value, we may be able to raise a reasonable doubt about whether it was actually worth $2,000. If we can show that it was actually worth $500, we may be able to get the charges reduced to malicious mischief in the third degree, which is a gross misdemeanor. In other cases, it may be possible to get the charges dropped altogether, based on the value of the property.

Hire a Defense Lawyer in the Tacoma Area

If you have been charged with destruction of property in a domestic violence case, you may want to find out more about the penalties and defenses that may apply. The attorneys at Smith & White represent people in the Tacoma area and elsewhere in Pierce, King, Kitsap, and Thurston Counties. Call us at (253) 203-1645 or complete our online form.

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