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Intent determines the severity of vandalism charges

Stiff penalties come with vandalism crimes in Massachusetts. Individuals found guilty may face a misdemeanor or felony conviction.

According to FindLaw, vandalism refers to the destruction or unlawful damage of an individual’s property. Malicious damage covers a range of offenses from graffiti and tire slashing to defacing murals. The charges and penalties that result depend on the vandal’s state of mind. If the court finds the vandalism had willful and malicious intent to do harm, the guilty party may receive a felony conviction. However, a reckless action without ill intention can result in misdemeanor charges.

Numerous state statutes focus on graffiti. They address the object marked as well as the type of marking.

  • Graffiti is maliciously or willfully placed markings on property such as a wall, fence, gravestone, tablet rock, monument or sign. Penalties can include fines, the cost of graffiti removal and up to three years in prison.
  • Tagging typically includes an individual signing their initials, name or other personal designation on your property. Due to its connection to gang activity, up to $1,500 in fines and two years in prison may accompany a conviction.
  • Defacement of churches, schools, memorials and cemeteries carries severe punishment. Depending on the property value, convicted individuals may spend five years in jail and pay thousands of dollars in fines.

According to The General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, law enforcement can arrest an individual for vandalism without a warrant if there is probable cause and a conviction could result in a suspended driver’s license. Offenders under the age of 16 may need to wait an additional year before getting their license.

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