Not guilty of destroying property

by Jamison Koehler on September 16, 2019
D.C. criminal defense attorney

Our client was charged with destruction of property.  Specifically, he was accused of breaking the door handle of a woman’s car during a parking garage dispute.  

In order to secure a conviction for destruction of property, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant damaged property that did not belong to him and that these actions were not by mistake or accident.  Particularly relevant to this case was the requirement that the government also prove that the defendant either intended to damage the property or exhibited extreme disregard for the possibility that damage would occur.  This is the requirement of criminal intent.  

After hearing the evidence in this case, the Court agreed that there are many car parts a person might seek to damage if angry.  You might smash a window, scratch the finish, or break the side view mirror.  But who would try to break a door handle?

The evidence was also more consistent with a person seeking to use the door handle for what it was designed to do:  He wanted to open the door, not break it. In other words, the government failed to prove that our client had the necessary criminal intent. The court therefore had no choice but to acquit.  

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