I destroyed a fence of one of my neighbors. The owner wants me to pay for the damage even if the fence was built near a canal which is beyond the land which they own. Can I be held liable for the damage done? What do I need to do?
The crime of malicious mischief or commonly called damage to property punishes a person who shall deliberately cause to the property of another any damage (Article 327, Revised Penal Code). For the conviction of the accused, the prosecutor must be able to prove the following elements: (1) that the offender deliberately caused damage to the property of another; (2) that such act does not constitute arson or other crimes involving destruction; (3) that the act of damaging another’s property be committed merely for the sake of damaging it.
In your situation, you may be held liable for malicious mischief even if the fence, which you have destroyed, was built on a land that is not owned by the builder for this does not mean that you have the right to restrain him thereof because you, likewise, have no right over the said land. The ownership of the land where the fence is built is irrelevant to your liability for the crime since the most important consideration in the crime of malicious mischief is to prove that the fence belongs to another.
Although the conviction for the crime of malicious mischief requires prior trial or hearing in court, we suggest that you speak with the owner of the fence to settle the issues arising from the damage thereto which you have intentionally caused. The settlement will not only end further conflict with the owner of the fence but will avoid litigation in court. In settling the damage, it is not necessary that you agree with the amount being suggested by the owner because you may make a counter offer to such an amount which you deem necessary to compensate him for the damages done.
Please be reminded that the above legal opinion is solely based on our appreciation of the problem that you have stated. The opinion may vary when other facts are included or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org