MALICIOUS DAMAGE OF PROPERTY
In simple terms, malicious damage of property means that you intended to cause the damage to the property or intended to destroy it. Malicious damage of property, often also referred to as property damage offences could result in imprisonment, fines or both depending on the value and the nature of the damage. Convictions may be noted on record which have long term implications on employability, travel and livelihood. If you have been charged with the malicious damage of property, our solicitors are the best in the business and will be able to advise of the successful outcome of your case.
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While specific legislation varies from state to state, the crux of the offence remains the same. In New South Wales, under Section 195 of the Crimes Act 1900, damage must be done recklessly and intentionally towards property belonging to another. If the crime is committed in the company of others or during a public disorder, the sentence period of imprisonment increases. Similarly, if fire or explosives are used in causing damage, the penalties increase.
To be found guilty of this offence, a three stage test must be applied. First, you must destroy or damage property. Second, the property must belong to another and third, the action must be done intentionally or recklessly.
WHAT IS PROPERTY AND WHAT CONSTITUTES DAMAGE?
Property includes any and all real and personal property. Money, valuables, deeds and instrument which relate to the title of property or estate can all amount to property as required by the offence. Common examples of malicious damage to property include but are not limited to, damaging an ex-partners vehicle, causing damage to the house during a break and enter, erasing important information from one’s personal computer etc.
The offence implies that you intended to damage or destroy property that does not belong to you. Damage to the property can include preventing use of the property. It may also relate to altering or marking property as in the cases of graffiti damage. Permanent damage of the item is not required to constitute a charge of malicious damage.
WHAT MUST BE PROVEN?
Depending on the value of the property and the damage caused, the penalties increase. Prosecution may also opt to have the case heard in a higher court with trial by jury as a possibility. In order to be convicted of malicious damage, the police must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you caused damage or destroyed property, that the property that was damaged or destroyed belong to another and that you intentionally caused the damage.
The law related to intent is very complex and each case will often have a different outcome depending on the defendant’s state of mind. It is important to examine the circumstances of each case carefully. The police will try to rely on any evidence of foresight to prove intent – i.e. that the damage was intentional.
PLEADING GUILTY OR NOT GUILTY
Defences to the charge of malicious damage of property include proving that you were wrongfully accused, i.e. you were not the one who caused damage or destroy the property in question, that you did so under duress or as a matter of necessity.
If you decide to plead not guilty, a brief of evidence collected against you will be served. This will contain all the evidence the police have and will use to try and convict you of destroying or damaging the property. This brief must be examined carefully in the presence of an experienced solicitor. Once the brief has been considered, you can choose to adhere to the not guilty plea, or change your plea to guilty. Following this, a hearing date will be set for your defended hearing where witnesses will be in court to testify against you and explain their version of events.
If you decide to plead guilty, you must still appear in court.
Imprisonment - the most serious penalty for the charge of malicious damage to property and involves full time detention in a correctional facility.
Intensive correction order - The court can order you to comply with a number of conditions, such as attending counselling or treatment, prohibiting consumption of alcohol, complying with a curfew and performing community service.
Suspended sentence - This is a jail sentence that is suspended upon you entering into a good behaviour bond. The terms of the good behaviour bond must be obeyed for the suspended sentence to not come into effect. A suspended sentence is only available for sentences of imprisonment of up to two years.
Community service order - This involves either unpaid work in the community.
Good behaviour bond - This is an order of the court that requires you to be of good behaviour for a specified period of time. The court will impose specific conditions that you will have to obey during the term of the bond. Maximum duration of a good behaviour bond is five years.
Fines - Determined by the value of goods damaged, the nature of the damage, other circumstances in the case and your own financial situation.
An experienced criminal lawyer can also assist in applying for a Section 10 dismissal which helps in avoiding a criminal record. When you plead guilty to a criminal offence, the court imposes a penalty and records a conviction and this goes on your criminal record. However, contacting one of the solicitors at George Sten & Co gives you a better chance to convince the court not to convict you (there will be no penalty of any type and no criminal record).. Call our Sydney Criminal Lawyers today 02 9261 8640