Massachusetts G.L. c. 266, § 127: Personal property; malicious or wanton injuries

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 266, section 127 criminalizes any willful and malicious, or wanton, destruction of or injury to another person’s personal property. The statute requires the Commonwealth to prove the following to be true, beyond a reasonable doubt, before a defendant can be convicted:

(1) The defendant destroyed or injured personal property, a dwelling house, or a building that belonged to another person; and

(2) The defendant did so either (i) willfully and with malice, or (ii) wantonly.

Under the statute, “personal property” means not only tangible items, but also any electronically processed or stored data (tangible or intangible), as well as any data that is in transit. The defendant’s act is “willful” if the defendant intended to do the act, and intended for there to be a harmful result because of the act. The defendant’s act is done with “malice” if the defendant did it deliberately, and out of cruelty, hostility, or revenge toward the owner of the property. Finally, the defendant’s act is done “wantonly” if the defendant did it recklessly, or with a conscious disregard of or indifference to the harmful damage that would probably result.

Related Offenses
  • G.L. c. 266, § 102B (malicious explosion)
  • G.L. c. 266, § 112 (malicious killing or injury to domestic animals)
  • G.L. c. 266, § 120F (unauthorized access to computer system)
  • G.L. c. 266, § 126A (defacement of real or personal property)
Defenses to Destruction of Personal Property

The Commonwealth’s biggest hurdle in prosecuting a defendant under G.L. c. 266, § 127 is proving that the defendant acted either willfully and with malice, or wantonly. Both standards are very high. They require the prosecution to prove that the defendant was more than just negligent, or that he acted in a way that a reasonably careful person would not. If the facts show that the incident was only an accident, then the defendant did not have the required state of mind, and should not be convicted. It would also be a defense to these charges if the property that the defendant destroyed belonged to the defendant, and not to another person.

Penalties

If a defendant is convicted of willful and malicious destruction of property, he will face (i) up to 10 years in prison, or (ii) a fine of either $3,000 or three times the value of the property destroyed or injured (whichever is greater), plus up to two and one-half years in jail.

If the defendant is convicted of wanton destruction of property, he will face (i) a fine of $1,500 or three times the value of the property destroyed or injured (whichever is greater), or (ii) up to two and one-half years imprisonment.

However, if the property destroyed or injured has an alleged value of $250 or less, then the defendant will face (i) a fine of three times the value of the damage or injury caused to the property, or (ii) imprisonment up to two and one-half months.

Destruction of Personal Property Defense Attorney Stephen Neyman

Stephen Neyman has more than 25 years of experience providing criminal defense representation to clients accused of a variety of crimes, including the willful and malicious or wanton destruction of property. He has the skill and expertise necessary to successfully challenge the evidence against his clients, often resulting in the suppression of evidence and the dismissal of charges before trial. Contact Attorney Neyman for a free consultation today at 617-263-6800.

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