In 2018, there were more than 56,000 domestic violence offenses, constituting 16.7% of all crimes in the state, according to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.
Yet, the crime and its penalties remain a mystery. For instance, many don’t understand that malicious mischief is a common charge in domestic violence cases.
In this article, we are going to fix that. We’ve put together all the information you should know about malicious mischief in general, and how it relates to domestic violence. We also include links to all the relevant Washington state codes. Follow along and learn about malicious mischief in Washington state and what to do if you’ve been charged.
What is malicious mischief in Washington state?
Malicious mischief occurs when property is physically damaged willfully and maliciously.
Malicious mischief most often involves the destruction of property (such as a phone or a car), vandalism, etc. In a domestic dispute, this typically involves an allegation that one party destroyed the property of an intimate partner or family member during an argument/fight.
The charge can also surface in less common scenarios due to a broad legal definition of what is considered to be physical damage. For instance, erasing records or digital files with value, or tampering with an emergency vehicle can be considered physical damage under the Revised Code of Washington Section 9A.48.100.
Malicious mischief can be either a gross misdemeanor, a Class C felony, or a Class B felony, depending on the value of the items/property damaged.
Malicious Mischief in the First Degree
Under the Revised Code of Washington Section 9A.48.070, a person will be charged with malicious mischief in the first degree if there are damages of $5,000 or more.
Additionally, if the damages caused in the incident cause an ‘interruption or impairment of service rendered’ by an emergency vehicle, public utility, or property of the state, or if you damage an aircraft, then you can be charged with malicious mischief in the first degree.
Crime Classification: Class B Felony punishable by up a maximum of ten years in prison and a $20,000 fine.*
Malicious Mischief in the Second Degree
Under the Revised Code of Washington Section 9A.48.080, a person will be charged with malicious mischief in the second degree if there are damages between $750 and $5,000 in an incident or if the accused created a ‘substantial risk of impairment of service’ of an emergency vehicle, public utility, or property of the state.
Crime Classification: Class C Felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.*
*Washington State operates off of sentencing guidelines for felony matters, so your actual punishment for a felony conviction of Malicious Mischief 1 or 2 will most likely be much less than the maximum.
Malicious Mischief in the Third Degree
Under the Revised Code of Washington Section 9A.48.090, Malicious Mischief in the Third Degree would be charged if damages in the incident are under $750.
Crime Classification: Gross Misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 365 days in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.
How does malicious mischief relate to domestic violence?
Washington state law allows for the aggressive prosecution of domestic violence (DV) cases, and if you’re accused of damaging property of an intimate partner or family member, you can be looking at a charge of malicious mischief.
The crime is far more common than people believe. In fact, according to the 2018 Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs report, over 10% of all domestic violence offenses were related to property damage.
This means over 5,000 Washington residents could have been charged with malicious mischief as a part of their domestic violence offenses in 2018.
Another interesting fact about malicious mischief is that if it is considered a domestic violence-related case, offenders are not eligible for the Compromise of Misdemeanor law in Washington state. The compromise law normally allows charges to be dropped if compensation is paid in full to the victim(s).
Domestic violence and malicious mischief are intimately related and more common than you might think. Such charges are serious and require the right representation.
Next steps if you’ve been charged with a crime in Washington state
If you’ve been charged with malicious mischief in Washington state, remember, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you maliciously intended to damage property. This means malicious mischief cases can be defended vigorously—if you hire the right lawyers.
Will & Will are the top husband and wife lawyer team in Washington. Their experience, energy, and passion will give you the best possible outcome in your case.
If you have been accused of damaging property in a domestic relationship in Washington, contact Will & Will for a consultation today.