The question is why he did it if it is criminal trespass. However, you have been monetarily damaged. You can and should sue him civilly for the cost of replacing the trees.
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The matter could be prosecuted criminally, although the particular charge would be up to the prosecuting attorney that pursues the matter. However, prosecuting attorneys, who often have large caseloads, may decline to pursue criminal charges for lack of evidence, or if they believe an adequate civil remedy exists, among other reasons.
With respect to a civil prosecution, you may have a claim for timber trespass under
RCW 64.12.030, if you can prove that the neighbor removed the trees without lawful authority. Under such circumstances, the statute allows for the recovery treble damages (i.e, triple the damages incurred). If the neighbor's removal of the trees was merely casual or involuntary, only single damages are awarded. See RCW 64.12.040.
Alternatively, if you can prove that the neighbor's tree removal was intentional and unreasonable, you may have a claim for waste or injury to land under RCW 4.24.630, which not only allows for the recovery treble damages, but also allow for the recovery of attorneys fees and investigative costs.
In pursuing similar claims for clients in the past, opposing attorneys have asserted that if your claim can be pursued under timber trespass (RCW 64.12.040), you cannot recover under waste or injury to land (RCW 4.24.630), which is preferable because of the potential recovery of attorneys fees.
This answer is provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon or construed as legal advice or legal opinion. The answer is based upon limited facts and general principles of law, both of which are subject to change and, therefore, may materially affect any answer given. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to your particular issue or problem. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor does it create any kind of legal relationship, duty, or privilege. This attorney is licensed only in the State of Washington.
This is timber trespass. You need an attorney skilled at this kind of litigation, and an expert to value the trees. Damages are treble and all your reasonable attorney fees and costs of suit. Those may well be the most expensive trees your neighbor ever bought.
Hope this helps. Elizabeth Powell
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Legal disclaimer: The answer provided: A) is for informational purposes only, B) is not intended to constitute legal advice, C) should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with an attorney, and, D) does not establish an attorney client relationship. The answer may be different if all of the facts were known.