Vandalism is a property crime that involves a person intentionally destroying or damaging another person’s property. Another type of property crime is criminal mischief. Criminal mischief occurs when a person intentionally damages property of another. The two crimes may sound similar, but mischief involves more than writing, defacing, or drawing on the other person’s property. Criminal, or malicious, mischief also involves:

  • Destroying property
  • Altering property
  • Damaging property
  • Defacing property 

What is Malicious Mischief in Washington State? 

In Washington State, criminal mischief is known as malicious mischief. The State law considers a person guilty of malicious mischief when they maliciously and knowingly cause physical damage to another person’s property. The severity of the degree depends on the overall cost of the property damage and what kind of property was damaged. 

What is Malicious Mischief in the Third Degree in Washington State? 

Malicious mischief is when someone knowingly and maliciously causes physical damage to another person’s property. However, the physical damage isn’t as serious as malicious mischief in the first or second degrees, meaning that the cost of the damages is not as high. First degree malicious mischief needs to exceed $5,000, and second degree malicious mischief needs to exceed $750. Whereas third degree malicious mischief has no minimum cost of damage requirement.

How is “Physical Damage” Defined in Washington State? 

Physical damage refers to partial or total:

  • Obliteration
  • Alternation
  • Impairment
  • Interference
  • Interruption
  • Destruction
  • Devaluation 

Can I Be Charged with Malicious Mischief in the Third Degree for Vandalizing Property? 

Yes. A person may be charged with malicious mischief in the third degree if they:

  • Paint, write, draw, or mark on any public or private structure;
  • Did it on a property that is owned by another person;
  • Did it without the permission of the owner to draw, write, paint, figure, or inscribe anything on the building; or
  • Did not create damages that rise to the level of first or second degree.

What is the Punishment for Third Degree Malicious Mischief? 

Third degree malicious mischief is charged as a gross misdemeanor. A defendant convicted of third degree malicious mischief can face up to 364 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000. 

Should I Contact a Lawyer about My Case? 

Yes. It’s extremely helpful to have a Washington criminal lawyer representing you in court.