IS CRIMINAL MISCHIEF A MISDEMEANOR?
Criminal mischief is a serious crime that is associated with harsh penalties. Criminal mischief can be charged from a Class A misdemeanor up to a Class B non-violent felony. For a misdemeanor conviction you could face one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
On the other side of the spectrum, criminal mischief in the first degree (the highest charge) is a Class B non-violent felony, resulting in a maximum prison sentence of 25 years.
If you have been charged with criminal mischief, it is imperative to retain experienced legal counsel from a qualified criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer can defend your constitutional rights, investigate your arrest, and prepare for trial. There are numerous defenses available that your attorney can use to contest a criminal defense charge, potentially resulting in the most favorable outcome possible.
Common defenses to criminal mischief include the following:
- False identity – Criminal mischief charges often arise due to the false identification of a suspect. Individuals can be mistakenly identified on surveillance footage, or they match the description of someone else who was reportedly caught defacing property. A lawyer will attempt to show the prosecution and jury that the defendant was not the actual person who committed the act, commonly by introducing an alibi whenever possible or questioning witnesses.
- Not intentional – The most important element of criminal mischief is determining whether or not the alleged offender damaged the property intentionally. Therefore, a defendant can claim that the damage was done unintentionally, especially if the individual had consent from the property owner for certain acts.
- Amount of damage – In some cases, the dollar amount of damages is in question, not the fault of the defendant. The dollar value of the damages can drastically change the penalties a defendant faces. The DA and plaintiff will typically attempt to aggregate separate incidents or use inflated estimates, to obtain a more severe charge. However, an attorney can fight to lower the charges and penalties you are facing.
- Self-defense – It is not a crime if you damage property in the course of reasonable self-defense. The police may misconstrue valid self-defense as an act of aggression and charge you.