The maximum penalty for this offence if you are convicted in the Local Court is:
Damage to property over $5000
- A term of imprisonment of up to 24 months, and/or
- A fine up to $11,000
Damage to property less than $5000
- A term of imprisonment of up to 12 months, and/or
- A fine up to $5,500 (if damage to property is less than $2000, the maximum fine is $2,200)
Malicious Damage of Property Definition
Malicious Damage of Property simply means that you intended to cause the damage to the property or intended to destroy it.
Damage refers to the ‘physical derangement’ of property. But, the damage does not have to be permanent or long lasting. The damage may include marking, defacing, removing or altering the property.
Malicious Damage to property may even go so far as to include interference such as deleting files from a computer, taking a key or erecting barriers, aimed at preventing use of a person’s property.
Section 195 of the Crimes Act 1900 says that:
A person who intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages property belonging to another, or that person and another, is liable.
Malicious Damage Penalty
If an election is made for a trial on indictment then the penalty given to a person found guilty of damaging or destroying property ranges depending on how the property was damaged or destroyed.
When the damage or destruction of property is in the company of other people, the penalty is for six years imprisonment and when fire or explosives are used, 11 years imprisonment.
If the damage or destruction of property occurs during a public disorder, then the imprisonment period is 7 years, but if fire or explosives are used, then the imprisonment period is 12 years.
Pleading Not Guilty
For you to be convicted of malicious damage the police will need to prove:
- That you caused the damage or destroyed property
- That the property that was damaged or destroyed belonged to another person, or you and another person
- That you intended to cause the damage
Each of these parts must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you decide to plead not guilty, a brief of evidence will be served. This brief contains all the evidence 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. Your solicitor can advise you whether or not you should testify.
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 importance to examine the circumstances of each case carefully. The police will try to rely on any evidence of foresight to prove intent.
Malicious Damage Defences
- Wrongfully accused (you are not the one who did it)
It is important to note 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.
A defended hearing requires significant preparation. It helps to have representation with expertise in Criminal law. The brief of evidence must be carefully dissected. Consideration must be given to whether any subpoenas should be issued, and you need a criminal defence lawyer who can stand up in Court and defend your rights.
The Partners at Benjamin & Leonardo Criminal Defence Lawyers have a wealth of experience in appearing in Court for both sentence hearings and defended hearings.
Pleading Guilty to Malicious Damage
If you are charged with this offence and you decide to plead guilty, you will still need to appear before a Magistrate to be sentenced.
You can avoid a criminal conviction, a term of imprisonment and or a fine if the Magistrate is persuaded to deal with your matter pursuant to section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing & Procedure) Act 1999.
A Magistrate when sentencing you for this offence will take into account the facts of the case, your prior record and any subjective material you present to them at the sentencing hearing.
Regardless of whether you plead guilty or not guilty, the Partners at Benjamin & Leonardo Criminal Defence Lawyers will ensure that your case receives the preparation and consideration it requires to give you every chance of obtaining the right result.