Criminal Offences

Malicious Damage

Under section 195 of the Crimes Act 1900, a person who has maliciously damaged property belonging to another individual is guilty of a criminal offence. In fact, the Crimes Act explicitly states that “A person who intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages property belonging to another, or that person and another, is liable to punishment.

In order to understand the offence, it is important to understand how the Court defines the crime. Malicious damage of property simply means that you intended to cause the damage to the property or intended to destroy it. Meanwhile, damage refers to the ‘physical derangement’ of property, however, the damage does not have to be permanent or long lasting. The damage may include marking, defacing, removing or altering the property.

By this definition, malicious damage of property could even include situations where an interference of property such as deleting files from a computer, taking a key or erecting barriers prevents or hinders the individual to use their property.

At Benjamin Leonardo – The Defenders, we are a Sydney based criminal defence law firm with extensive experience in such cases.

For more information on charges relating to malicious damage of property, read below or call our expert team on (02) 9283 3033 for a FREE consultation.

PENALTIES

If you are potentially facing penalties for malicious damage of property, the maximum sentence imposed depends on the Court you are convicted in. Typically, our expert criminal defence lawyers defend charges at a Local Court level, where the penalties are less severe. However, yourself or the prosecution team may elect to have the matter heard at a District Court level, where the penalties imposed may be more significant.

As a majority of these cases are dealt with at a Local Court, the maximum penalty you will be liable to should you be found guilty depends on the monetary value of damage to the property, which is as follows:

Damage to property over $5,000:

  1. A term of imprisonment of up to 24 months, and/or
  2. A fine up to $11,000

Damage to property less than $5,000:

  1. A term of imprisonment of up to 12 months, and/or
  2. A fine up to $5,500 (if damage to the property is less than $2,000, the maximum fine is $2,200

However, if convicted at a District Court, the Crimes Act 1900 also states that:

  1. A person who intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages property belonging to another or that person and another is liable:
    1. To imprisonment of 5 years,
    2. If the destruction or damage is caused by means of fire or explosives, to imprisonment for 10 years.
  2. A person who, in the company of another person or persons, intentionally or recklessly destroys property belonging to another or to that person and another is liable:
    1. To imprisonment for 6 years, or
    2. If the destruction is caused by means of fire or explosives, to imprisonment for 11 years.
  3. A person who, during a public disorder, intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages property belonging to another or to that person and another is liable:
    1. To imprisonment for 7 years, or
    2. If the destruction or damage is caused by means of fire or explosives, to imprisonment for 12 years.

The Court may also use its discretion to impose less severe penalties such as Intensive Correction Disorders (ICOs), community service, suspended sentences or other penalties that the Court feels are appropriate for the individual.

As an award-winning criminal law firm with a 90% success rate on all criminal cases, Benjamin Leonardo is home to some of the best criminal defence lawyers in Sydney.

Should you or someone you know be facing charges relating to malicious damage of property, contact our expert criminal defence team for a FREE first consultation and more accurate advice on the penalties that your particular case may be liable to.

GUILTY

For you to be convicted of malicious damage, the Police will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. That you caused the damage or destroyed the property
  2. That the property that was damaged or destroyed belonged to another person, or you and another person
  3. That you intended to cause the damage.

If you choose to agree to these claims, you have the option to plead guilty, which will then proceed to the sentencing. Although this will mean that you may be liable to the penalties outlined above, the Court may also reward those who plead guilty with a less severe sentence or potentially a section 10 dismissal after considering the facts of the case, any previous criminal history, personal circumstances and other relevant factors. A guilty plea typically shows remorse and regret for the actions that resulted in the charge, which is seen favourable in the eyes of the Court.

NOT GUILTY

If you decide to plead not guilty, a brief of evidence will be served. This brief contains all the evidence that the Police will use to try and convict you of destroying or damaging the property. This brief must be examined carefully. 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.

At the defended hearing, witnesses will be in Court to testify against you and explain their version of events. We will then have the ability to cross-examine them. You can choose to testify and give your own version of events. When you testify, then you are also cross-examined by the prosecution. As expert criminal lawyers with years of experience, we can advise you on whether it not testifying will help or hinder your case.

The law related to intent is very complicated and each case will often have a different outcome depending on the defendant’s state of mind. It is important to examine the circumstance of each case carefully as the Police will try to rely on any evidence of foresight to prove intent. If the prosecution is able to successfully prove that you did commit an offence, it is likely you will face the penalties listed above, unless your criminal defence lawyer is able to quash the claims with the below defence strategies.

Regardless of whether you plead guilty or not guilty, our Sydney and Parramatta based criminal defence lawyers at Benjamin Leonardo – The Defenders will ensure that your case receives the preparation and consideration it requires to give you every chance of obtaining the best result possible.

THE DEFENCE

Wrongfully Accused: Unfortunately, in some cases individuals find themselves facing a trial for a crime they didn’t commit as per the Crimes Act 1900. If there is evidence that you were not the one who committed the crime of maliciously damaging property, you may have a suitable defence.

Necessity: Although difficult to prove, the person accused of maliciously damaging property may have a possible defence of necessity if criminal defence lawyers can successfully argue with evidence that the accused was acting in fear of irreparable harm from natural or human forces. For this defence to be accepted, it must be proved that the individual feared they were in serious danger of being harmed or even killed. The situation must also have been urgent, and the accused would have to believe that if they didn’t act, their life would have been in danger. Therefore, the crime of maliciously damaging property must be in proportion to the threat of imminent danger that could have not been solved otherwise. For example, setting a property on fire to attract emergency services crews in situations when you are lost or trapped, may successfully warrant the necessity defence.

Duress: Similar to necessity, if your criminal defence lawyer can successfully argue and prove that harmful threats such as death or grievous bodily harm were made against you, the defence of duress may be appropriate. This defence argues that as a result of the harmful threats, individuals have been coerced to participate in criminal activities that they would usually not have in order to protect themselves from the threats taking place.
It is also important to understand that you cannot be convicted of malicious damage if the property has been damaged or destroyed accidentally. This is because you did not have the intent required for malicious damage.

WHICH COURT?

Majority of malicious damage to property charges are dealt with at a Local Court. However, the prosecution or even yourself may elect to have the matter heard at a District Court.

At Benjamin Leonardo – The Defenders, we are a leading criminal law firm with offices based in Parramatta and the Sydney CBD. Our expert criminal defence lawyers have extensive experience working in Local and District Courts surrounding these areas, as well as all over NSW. We also have a wealth of experience in appearing in Court for both sentence hearing and defended hearings and have the commitment and dedication to prepare for your case. Should one of our best criminal lawyers in Sydney represent you in relation to malicious damage to property charges, you be confident you are receiving superior representation and support regardless of the Court that your case will be heard at.