Against the law to smash your own property during an argument?

I was watching an old episode of Cops last night. The officer had been called out to a domestic dispute. There had been an argument, some physical stuff, and eventually the cop arrested the husband. As he was leading him away, the guy was saying, sure, he’d smashed some stuff, but it was his own property.

The cop replied, “It’s against the law in Oklahoma to destroy your own or another’s property during the course of an argument.”

What? I get the bit about someone else’s stuff, but you can’t smash a few of your own plates or something if you happen to be arguing at the time? (I’m not talking about throwing stuff at your partner, that would be assault.)

Is this really the law and does it exist in other states?

I have not read through all of it, but here is an 86-page paper on the subject of the right to destroy property.

So be sure to not open your mouth and you’re not arguing. Break everything.

I am most emphatically not a lawyer of any type or species. However, what I almost immediately thought of was - given that it is a domestic dispute, are the couple likely to divorce soon? He might feel that the property is his, but it might not end up that way during divorce proceedings. Maybe the issue is that you can not unilaterally destroy matrimonial property?

If somebody’s pissed off to the point of breaking their own stuff, there’s probably a very elevated risk that they’ll start breaking other people’s stuff, or other people. The thinking is probably that it’s better to arrest them before that happens.

Here’s a thread I’m going to be watching.

I was speaking with someone a couple of weeks ago who had taken a rest from hammering her car. She told me that she was still considering slashing the seats and she figured it needed more hammering.

I assumed that this activity, regardless of who’s car it is, would attract police attention, but I never imagined that one could get arrested for it.

I really don’t think that line of reasoning holds any water. If I’ll get arrested for breaking my own stuff or somebody else’s, then when feeling an urge to break something I a lot more likely to go for somebody else’s. Urge to break stuff during an argument is fairly widespread – I don’t see any point for removing any legal outlets for it.

Well there’s a big difference between getting arrested for something and being charged with a crime. Maybe he was charged, but maybe the cops were just like, “Ok, he’s gonna have to sleep this off tonight.”

Criminal Damage to Property (breaking other peoples things) is usually a more serious offense than Disorderly Conduct, which is what I would charge if I arrived and the subject was smashing his own stuff about.

However, depending on where you reside YMMV. Wisconsins D.C. statute is used as a coverall on a lot of situations where there is otherwise no specific law.

Former prosecutor, now a magistrate. I’ve never heard of anyone in Ohio charged with destroying his own property during an argument, except that you cannot destroy a phone - even your own phone - if the other person in the argument might use it to call for help. “Interference with public service” is a rare but not unknown charge in domestic violence cases.

Any destruction of one’s own personal property must also be done in such a way as to not run afoul of any other law (littering, disorderly conduct, aggravated menacing), which can be difficult.

Several years ago, they changed the law in Washington state to address these types of domestic situations. It is now illegal to damage any property “in which the actor possesses anything less than exclusive ownership.” So either spouse can be charged for destroying property that they own jointly.

You can, however, destroy your own property if you want.

well isnt assault classified as anything action that makes someone feel “apprehensive” smashing a plate infront of your wife might just do that

Filling out forms make me apprehensive. Can I have government officials arrested for that. Please say yes.

Could the law somehow be related to arson? I recall many decades ago, in some areas setting your own house afire wasn’t necessarily arson, and unless you tried to collect the insurance it wasn’t a crime. But do to the fact the fire could easily spread they made it a crime regardless of if you owned the property or not.

Perhaps this is how the law is being read in regards to destroying your own property.

I’ve never heard of any connection to arson, but I suppose there could be.

Standard lawyer disclaimers apply…

A creative prosecutor can claim assault based on the victim’s fear or apprehension of violence towards his person based on the perpetrator’s actions towards inanimate objects.

The prosecutor wouldn’t have to be that creative. It’s a common misconception that you must actually hit or threaten to hit a partner to be charged with domestic violence. While all state laws are different, generally if you put an intimate partner in reasonable apprehension of physical violence, it is domestic violence.

And I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to fear for your safety if the guy is smashing furniture or beating holes in the wall.

Yet some total stranger can walk up to you…tell you that he will kill you one day just for the fun of it…appear to mean it…and the police will tell ya they can’t do a darn thing…

But a screaming match with broken plates can land someone in the pokey?

Go figure…


Where is this happening? Over the years I’ve cited oodles of people for Disorderly Conduct for doing just that or similar.

Unlikely. Oklahoma is not a community property state and it’s not incumbent on the police to preserve property that may become at issue in a civil dispute like a divorce.