Vandalize Property (266/126A)

In Massachusetts, vandalism is a felony, and carries a one year loss of drivers license.

Vandalism is one of the most overused and abused charges in the Massachusetts criminal code.  The main reason for its overuse is that the statute prohibiting vandalism barely differs from the statute prohibiting malicious destruction of personal property, except that vandalism is a felony, where malicious damage is a misdemeanor.  Moreover, the statute on vandalism has been recently amended in ways that are not well understood by many prosecutors, police, lawyers, and even judges.

The result is that police often use this ambiguity to charge a felony offense in cases where it would have been more appropriate to simply charge a person with a misdemeanor.  Police do this when they want to send a message to the prosecuting attorney or the court that the offense is not a run-of-the-mill malicious destruction of property charge, which frequently gets reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor based on the inability of the police to prove that the value of the property damaged exceeds $250.

In cases where the defendant faces vandalism charges, there may be specialized defenses that can be raised based on technicalities of the statute. The statute requires a certain showing of intentional conduct which may not be met in all cases, depending on the facts. In other cases, there may be more appropriate misdemeanor charge that a court should apply--often a very minor misdemeanor which carries only a fine and no jail time.

If you have been charged with vandalizing property, you should contact an attorney immediately to explore the chance of having the charge dismissed or reduced.



See:  G.L. c. 266 s. 126A; G.L. c. 266 s. 127; License Suspension.