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Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 6-301 – Malicious Destruction of Property

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

Willfully damaging someone else’s property is a serious offense in Maryland. A person can be convicted of the crime, even if there is no real evidence as to the value of the damage. Also, acts of graffiti, fall under the category of prohibited acts.

Malicious Destruction of Property is prosecuted pursuant to Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 6-301.

In order to convict a defendant of Malicious Destruction of Property, the State must prove:

  1. That the defendant damaged, destroyed, or defaced someone else’s property; and
  2. That the defendant acted with the intent to damage, destroy, or deface that property; and
  3. That the defendant acted without legal justification.

The value of the damage is not a substantive element of the offense. In other words, the State need only prove that there was damage, not how much. The State must prove that the defendant intended to injure the property. An accidental damage to property will not support a conviction. 

Even though Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 6-301 requires that the defendant act willfully and maliciously when destroying, injuring, or defacing the property in question, Malicious Destruct of Property is not classified as an “infamous crime.” It is not the type off crime that defines the perpetrator as untrustworthy and it is not a crime involving moral turpitude (“moral turpitude” describes an offense or crime that is vile or an insult to morality).

2. Examples

A man living in a rural part of Maryland sees a German Sheppard chasing a wild turkey in an area near the man’s property line. The man knows that the German Sheppard is owned by a family in the area. The man loads his high-powered rifle and shoots at the dog. The first shot cripples the dog and the second shot missed. The man reloads and fires a third shot, killing the dog. In addition to any charges concerning cruelty to animals under Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 10-606, the man would also be guilty of Malicious Destruction of Property under Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 6-301.

Even though certain conduct, like Cross Burning, cannot be the subject of a criminal statute because it is an expression of free speech, such conduct can be prosecuted and sanctioned as a Malicious Destruction of Property under Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 6-301.

3. Related Offenses

Burglary in the third degree - Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 6-204

Burglary in the fourth degree - Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 6-205

Breaking and Entering motor vehicle – Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 6-206

4. Defenses

If the destruction of property occurs as the result of an accident, or in a circumstance when the defendant was so intoxicated that he/she could not act willfully or maliciously, the defendant could not be convicted under Malicious Destruction of Property, Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Section 6-301.

5. Penalties

Malicious Destruction of Property is graded for purposes of sentencing. The maximum sentence depends on the value of the property. Property valued less than $1,000 is subject to a $500 fine and 60 days imprisonment. Criminal Law, Section 6-301(c). Property valued at least $1,000 is subject to a $2,500 fine and three years imprisonment. Criminal Law, Section 6-301(b). No specific value need be alleged or proven for a conviction and the lesser sentence. The greater sentence is impermissible, notwithstanding evidence of property valued at least $1,000, unless the fact finder finds such value beyond a reasonable doubt.

6. Criminal Defense for the charge of Malicious Destruction of Property

If you have been accused of Malicious Destruction of Property, it is important that you speak with an experienced Maryland attorney at once. Many cases involve unique factual circumstances that an attorney can research and evaluate for you. Additionally, even after charges are filed, an attorney may be able to intervene on your behalf to defuse and explain facts and possible effect a resolution outside the court room. Attorney David Felsen has over 32 years of experience in Maryland courts and has established key relationships with prosecutors and law enforcement. Mr. Felsen is recognized as Maryland Super Lawyer, has an AV (Highest) rating, and listed as one of Bethesda Magazine’s Top Lawyer.

For more information about Malicious Destruction of Property, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney David Felsen, at Felsen & Sargent, 600 Jefferson Plaza, Suite 201, Rockville, Maryland 20852, or call 301-251-4010.

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