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Is It a Crime to Key Someone's Car?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

"I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped up 4 wheel drive..." Don't get Carrie Underwood mad.

You've probably once been just as mad as Carrie Underwood and wanted to key someone's car for parking too close, stealing your spot, cutting you off.

Sure, keying someone's car isn't a nice thing to do, but is it a crime?

Keying a Car: Don't Do It

First of all, don't key someone's car. It most definitely is a crime. Depending on the value of damage you cause to a car, you could be charged with simple vandalism or a serious felony. Regardless, the punishment if you're caught probably isn't worth the momentary satisfaction of revenge.


Vandalism is a broad category of crime that covers intentionally damaging or defacing another person's property. Keying someone's car, egging their home, breaking their window, slashing their tires, or painting on their property are all considered vandalism. Depending on the value of the damage caused by vandalism, the crime may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on state law.

Other Possible Charges

Most states will have general vandalism laws to punish keying a car, but some states may have more specific charges. For example, here are a few different possible charges available under Massachusetts law:

Defacement of real or personal property

In Massachusetts, you can be found guilty of defacing real or personal property if you "intentionally, willfully and maliciously or wantonly, paints, marks, scratches, etches or otherwise marks, injures, mars, defaces or destroys the real or personal property of another." Possible punishment can be up to three years in prison, or up to two years in a house of correction and a fine of $1,500 or three times the value of property damaged. If convicted, you'll also have your driver's license suspended for one year.

Malicious or wanton injuries to personal property

Destroying or injuring the personal property of another can get you as much as 10 years in prison. However, if the value of the property destroyed is less than $250, you'll only be punished by a maximum of 2.5 months in jail and a fine of three times the value of the damage.

The next time road rage hits you, try to resist the urge to exact some cosmetic revenge. If you ever are charged with vandalism or keying a car, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney for help.

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