If you have been charged with Vandalism, please call or email me as soon as possible. Like nearly every other type of criminal charge, it is critical to be proactive and take some action to defend yourself before your next court date.
Being accused of Vandalism is a serious accusation. Essentially if you have been charged you have been accused of destroying or damaging someone’s property. I consider that serious, even if only a misdemeanor.
Under Rhode Island law, Vandalism is a misdemeanor charge, unless the charge is considered to be an act of Domestic Violence under the Rhode Island Domestic Violence Prevention Act. If the Vandalism accusation is coupled with Domestic Violence, and the individual has two (2) or more prior Domestic Violence convictions, (even if those convictions were not for Vandalism), then the Vandalism charge can be charged as a felony. This means that the possibility of going to prison for at least one (1) year is very, very real.
In addition to the foregoing, Rhode Island has recently increased the penalties for Vandalism. These penalties now include up to one hundred (100) hours of community service for a first offense, and up to two hundred (200) hundred hours of community service for a second or subsequent offense. Moreover, Courts frequently order restitution to the injured party.
Since the consequences of a Vandalism conviction can be so harsh, it is critical to at least speak with a competent criminal defense attorney who can assist you. You do not want to handle this type of case alone because a conviction for this can have both short and long term consequences.
Under Rhode Island law, Vandalism is defined as:
- Willfully, maliciously or mischievously injuring or destroying another person’s property, or
- Obstructing a person’s use of his or her property.
The terms willfully, maliciously and mischievously all imply that Vandalism is a specific intent crime. That is to say that in order to be guilty of Vandalism a person must have specifically formed the intent to destroy or injure another person’s property. However, according to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, this is not the case. Instead, the Court has interpreted our Vandalism statute to be a general intent crime. This means that proof of specific intent to injure or destroy another person’s property is not essential, even though the Vandalism statute requires that the very act of injuring or destroying the property to be willfully committed.
Therefore, under Rhode Island law, the intent of the accused is not an essential ingredient of the charge of Vandalism. All the prosecution needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, is the Defendant’s general malice or simple criminal intent.