Malicious Mischief

What is Malicious Mischief?

Malicious mischief is an offense that usually involves physical damage to the property of another. It can also involve interference with a public service or utility. In Washington State, there are three malicious mischief offenses: malicious mischief in the first degree, malicious mischief in the second degree, and malicious mischief in the third degree.

Malicious Mischief in the First Degree:

According to RCW §9A.48.070, a person commits malicious mischief in the first degree if he:

  1. Causes physical damage to the property of another in an amount exceeding $5,000;
  2. Causes an interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public by physically damaging or tampering with an emergency vehicle, property of the state, or a public utility; or
  3. Causes an impairment of the safety, efficiency, or operation of an aircraft by physically damaging or tampering with the aircraft or aircraft equipment, fuel, lubricant, or parts.

Penalties for Malicious Mischief in the First Degree:

Malicious mischief in the first degree is a class B felony, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by up to ten years in prison, a maximum fine of $20,000, or both.

Malicious Mischief in the Second Degree:

According to RCW §9A.48.080, a person commits malicious mischief in the second degree if he:

  1. Causes physical damage to the property of another in an amount exceeding $750; or
  2. Creates a substantial risk of interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public by physically damaging or tampering with an emergency vehicle, property of the state, or a public utility.

Penalties for Malicious Mischief in the Second Degree:

Malicious mischief in the second degree is a class C felony, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.

Malicious Mischief in the Third Degree:

According to RCW §9A.48.090, a person commits malicious mischief in the third degree if he:

  1. Knowingly and maliciously causes physical damage to the property of another, under circumstances not amounting to malicious mischief in the first or second degree; or
  2. Writes, paints, or draws any inscription, figure, or mark of any type on any public or private building or other structure or any real or personal property owned by any other person unless the person has obtained the express permission of the owner or operator of the property, under circumstances not amounting to malicious mischief in the first or second degree.

Penalties for Malicious Mischief in the Third Degree:

Malicious mischief in the third degree is a gross misdemeanor, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by up to one year in prison, a maximum fine of $5,000, or both.

Defending a Malicious Mischief Charge:

There are a number of ways to defend a malicious mischief charge. One strategy is to challenge the amount of the damage caused to the property of another. For example, if you are charged with malicious mischief in the first degree, then the damage caused to the property in question must exceed $5,000. You could argue that the amount of damage caused was less than $5,000. Similarly, if you are charged with malicious mischief in the second degree, you could argue that the amount of the damage caused was, in fact, less than $750. If you are charged with malicious mischief in the third degree, then the amount of the damage caused must be less than $750 AND the damage must be caused knowingly and maliciously. Therefore, you could argue that you did not knowingly or maliciously cause the damage. Your defense strategy is crucial, and the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney is strongly advised.