CRIMINAL MISCHIEF is a term used in US criminal courts to describe those offenses against property (not conversion/theft) that involves defacement, damage, alteration, or destruction of property. Criminal mischief can be vandalism, graffiti (even artistic graffiti is considered “mischief”), the breaking of windows, painting without an owner’s consent, et al. Property damage and criminal mischief can play out in the courts in a wide variety of ways.
Criminal mischief can be a crime of lesser degree, such as keying someone’s vehicle in anger, or emptying trash in someone’s yard out of anger. However, when criminal mischief is used in conjunction with another type of crime, naturally the offense will be considered more serious. For instance, if someone is accused of harassment and criminal mischief they will usually receive the higher degree of offense. This can quickly elevate the case to something more serious as the actions of criminal mischief may show a court that the individual is capable of escalation.
Criminal mischief can be sub-categorized by severity. The sub-categories vary by degree which then determines if the offense will be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Another aspect of this offense is that if it accompanies another criminal offense such as harassment, a judicial officer may increase the severity of the offense. This resulting in a harsher consequence for an otherwise “lesser” crime. The reason the justice system finds that a harsher consequence is fitting, is because they feel there is the possibility of a repetitive incident, thus making the offense more serious.
When a case involving criminal mischief is addressed, the alleged victim has the option to proceed with a civil or a criminal suit. A civil suit is often preferred if the property damage was inflicted upon a business. The civil suit will allow that business owner to request a monetary reimbursement for the damages done to their property.
Although a criminal mischief charge is most often classified as a misdemeanor, should the offense involve any government property i.e. an “official use only” vehicle, the charge will be classified as a felony and be addressed in criminal court.
Some people make the mistake of thinking that it simply includes damage to property. Do not mistake this as fact. NY PENAL LAW S145.00 outlines that criminal mischief includes preventing another person or persons from making emergency contact e.g. to the police, fire department or medical services. If this contact is prevented by either damaging or taking a telephonic device or in any other way, it will be considered and charged as criminal mischief.
Types of criminal mischief outlined in the penal code:
S 145.00 Criminal mischief in the fourth degree (class A misdemeanor)
S 145.05 Criminal mischief in the third degree (class E felony)
S 145.10 Criminal mischief in the second degree (class D felony)
S 145.12 Criminal mischief in the first degree (class B felony)
New York Criminal Mischief Attorney: A Charge that Mustn’t be Ignored
Some business owners would rather make the event a civil case so that they can be compensated for the action, while others want it prosecuted as a criminal offense. It is predominantly considered a “misdemeanor” with exceptions being “official use” property. Your NYC criminal attorney can explain the qualifications better prior to your arraignment.
Criminal mischief almost always incurs a monetary fine. When damages are done to a piece of property the person who committed the offense will be held responsible to pay for repairs of the damaged property.
Criminal mischief can also be charged for several other destructive behaviors. Some of these include, but are not limited to, graveyards, water or electric meters, factories, telephone companies and other places of business. For clarification, any building, object or property of any kind that one has no personal ownership to, yet defiles, alters, damages or defaces in any way, can be charged with this offense.
Criminal mischief is a serious offense with potential long-term consequences including jail time.
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