The exact legal definition of criminal mischief varies by state, but the crime always involves property somehow. Typically, it involves intentionally damaging property belonging to another. This means the defendant damaged someone’s property on purpose without permission from the owner to do so.

What Does Having Intent to Commit Criminal Mischief Mean?

The term “intent” refers to the mindset of the defendant at the time the property was damaged. Most crimes such as theft and assault require specific intent. This means the defendant acted with specific purpose or reason when damaging property. In other words, it was not an accident.

How Does Criminal Mischief Occur?

Criminal mischief happens whenever a person intentionally causes harm to tangible property of another by:

  • Damaging it
  • Defacing it
  • Altering it
  • Destroying it

Is Criminal Tampering Considered to be Mischief?

No. Criminal tampering is a different type of criminal interference with property. Criminal tampering involves a defendant intentionally doing the following to someone’s property:

  • Meddling
  • Impairing
  • Interrupting
  • Altering

What Are the Penalties for Criminal Mischief?

Criminal mischief is a misdemeanor crime. The penalties for this crime are typically limited to a short stay in jail and/or fines.

Will I Have to Pay Restitution If Convicted of Criminal Mischief?

Yes, it is possible. If convicted of criminal mischief, a defendant may have to pay restitution as part of their sentence. Restitution is money a defendant pays the victim for the loss they suffered such as damaged or ruined property.

What If the Owner Gave Their Consent to Me Damaging Their Property?

The consent defense used when a defendant claims the plaintiff gave consent, or permission, to do the action that they are being accused of doing. In this instance, if the property owner gave the defendant permission to damage their property, the defendant cannot be found guilty of criminal mischief.

Should I Consult a Criminal Lawyer about a Criminal Mischief Charge?

If you have been charged with committing criminal mischief, it is in your best interest to contact a criminal lawyer. The lawyer will instruct you on your rights and defenses regarding the criminal mischief charge.