Judge Issued Injunction on Seattle’s Property Destruction Law

Seattle Property Damage Lawsuit

Seattle Property Damage Lawsuit

In 2021, a group of protestors filed a Seattle Property Damage Lawsuit against the city of Seattle after being arrested for violating Seattle city ordinance 12A.08.020 by vandalizing temporary police barricades with writing that was anti-police. The plaintiffs claim that the law surrounding Property Destruction under Seattle’s municipal code is vague and in violation of their First Amendment rights. This lawsuit has had a recent development in June of 2023 as a federal judge in Seattle issued an injunction barring the city’s police department from making graffiti-related arrests under the current Property Destruction code. This case brings to the forefront an important debate: the balance between protecting free speech and preventing property damage. If you are facing any charges related to vandalism, the lawyers at the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer are here to represent and defend you. They will work diligently to expertly craft a defense for you, ensuring your rights are protected throughout the process.

Background of the Property Damage Case

Seattle city ordinance SMC 12A.08.020 states that one is guilty of Property Destruction if he or she “writes, paints, or draws any inscription, figure, or mark of any type on any public or private building or structure.” The plaintiff’s contention lies in the fact that the law is written broadly, criminalizing any form of writing on public or private property, regardless of permanence or actual damage caused.

To highlight the issue, in 2020, there were demonstrators who were writing messages on public roads and sidewalks that were supporting the Seattle Police Department, in which police officers participated. No one was arrested during this event, even though the demonstrators were in violation of the city ordinance. This provides a clear conflict of interest, as police seem to be picking and choosing who is “vandalizing” private or public property under the city’s ordinance based on their personal opinion of the message.

The Judge’s Ruling

U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman sided with the plaintiffs, issuing an injunction against the city’s Property Destruction law. She expressed concerns that the law could be used for censorship, allowing the arrest of individuals who simply express dissenting opinions or create art that may irk certain officers. Judge Pechman’s ruling highlights the potential harm caused by criminalizing free speech, emphasizing the need for a careful balance between protecting public interest and individual rights to free speech. The injunction’s immediate effect is the temporary suspension of arrests under the city’s property damage law, only affecting the graffiti portion of the law.

Implications for Seattle’s Property Damage Legislation

The ruling however sets a possible precedent for related laws with similar verbiage regarding vandalism to public and private property. Malicious Mischief in the 3rd Degree is one example,  as RCW 9A.48.090 also states that one is guilty of this crime if they “writes, paints, or draws any inscription, figure, or mark on any public or private building or other structure.” This may lead other cities or counties to adopt an identical position if they hold similar codes or ordinances in order to reflect Seattle’s ruling protecting the First Amendment rights of its citizens.

Considering the Public Interest

With approximately 900 Property Destruction cases referred to Seattle’s prosecution office annually, it is crucial to assess the potential consequences of the injunction to the public’s interest. While the protection of free speech is a fundamental pillar of democracy, it is equally important to address acts of Property Destruction that harm individuals, businesses, and the community at large. Striking the right balance is essential to ensure the equitable functioning of society.

Mayor Harrell’s Approach

Mayor Bruce Harrell has been actively pursuing measures to mitigate permanent graffiti in Seattle. However, it is worth noting that the underlying case occurred before Mayor Harrell took office. In response to the injunction, the mayor’s spokesperson reaffirmed the commitment to finding ways to alleviate graffiti-related issues while respecting the need to protect free speech. The city aims to implement a comprehensive One Seattle Graffiti Plan that focuses on law enforcement, community engagement, artistic expression, and collaboration.

How We Can Help

While the plaintiffs argue that the law infringes upon their constitutional rights, the city and law enforcement officials acknowledge the significance of addressing property damage for the well-being of the community. If you are facing any charges related to Malicious Mischief or vandalism, hiring an attorney can be incredibly beneficial to the outcome of your case. Our attorneys at the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer are incredibly skilled, and will defend you to the fullest extent of the law.

Call the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer at (360) 334-6277 today in order to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. Don’t wait to protect your freedom and future.

Defending Your Case Against Malicious Mischief

Malicious Mischief

Malicious Mischief in Washington

Malicious Mischief, also known as vandalism, is a crime that involves intentionally damaging or destroying property belonging to another person in Washington. While it may be perceived as a relatively minor offense, Malicious Mischief can have serious consequences, for both the perpetrator and the victim. Due to Malicious Mischief being commonly associated with domestic violence cases in Washington, these charges can become quite complex. For defense firms, understanding the nuances of Malicious Mischief cases is crucial in providing effective legal counsel and ensuring justice is served. In this blog post, we will explore the legal definition of Malicious Mischief, the various types of Malicious Mischief, and the role of defense firms in protecting the rights of the accused of this offense. The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer has taken on a large number of these cases in Washington and is highly knowledgeable, experienced, and ready to defend your case.

What are the penalties of a Malicious Mischief conviction?

Malicious Mischief is the knowingly and malicious destruction of property as stated in the Revised Code of Washington. Ranging from a Gross Misdemeanor to Class B Felony, Malicious Mischief charges can amount up to be quite serious depending on a number of factors, the most common being the dollar amount of damage caused.

Malicious Mischief in the 1st Degree: Malicious Mischief in the First Degree is charged when one causes damage to real or personal property totalling more than $5,000.00. Tampering with public utilities, ballots, emergency vehicles, public transportation, and other properties of the state that results in the impairment or interruption of services is also considered Malicious Mischief in the First Degree. This charge is a Class B Felony and can carry up to 10 years in prison and up to a $20,000.00 fine.

Malicious Mischief in the 2nd Degree: Malicious Mischief in the Second Degree is classified as damage to real or personal property exceeding $750.00 but is less than $5,000.00 in total. Tampering with public utilities, ballots, emergency vehicles, public transportation, or other properties of the state also results in a Malicious Mischief charge in the Second Degree. This crime is considered a Class C Felony and punishable by up to 5 years in prison, and up to a $10,000.00 fine.

Malicious Mischief in the 3rd Degree: Malicious Mischief in the Third Degree is considered to be painting, marking, or writing on private or public buildings without the express consent of the owner. Graffiti for example, is one of the most common acts of Malicious in the Third Degree. Malicious Mischief in the Third Degree is classified as a Gross Misdemeanor, which can carry up to a 364 days in jail, and up to $5,000.00 in fines.

Malicious Mischief in domestic violence cases

In domestic violence cases it is not uncommon for there to be a Malicious Mischief charge somewhere in the mix. Having a fight with a family member or intimate partner and destroying property can easily result in a Malicious Mischief charge. If a dispute escalates into a physical altercation between spouses, the property damaged during the incident which may be jointly owned can still possibly result in potential Malicious Mischief charges for the person who destroyed the piece of property.

Is restitution possible?

A typical Malicious Mischief charge excluding the involvement of domestic violence, often has a form of restitution to pay back the person whose property was damaged. However, cases related to domestic violence charges do not allow for that kind of exchange due to the Compromise of Misdemeanors Law in the state of Washington. The involvement of domestic violence can make a Malicious Mischief charge even more serious and harder to navigate without legal counsel due to the aggressive nature of prosecution. Even if a victim has decided they would like to drop charges and or move the case along in a specific direction they will not be in charge of prosecuting the case and ultimately will not have a say in how the case is handled.

What can we do for you?

Hiring a lawyer will be the best decision you can make in order to protect your rights. The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer has a number of attorneys who are passionate about their clients, and will defend you in court to the fullest extent of the law. With the potential complexities of Malicious Mischief charges, it is imperative that you obtain representation in order to safeguard your future and freedom.

Call the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer today at (360) 334-6277 and schedule your free and confidential consultation.