What to Do if You’ve Been Charged with Criminal Mischief
Criminal mischief may not be as serious as other crimes, but it can carry harsh consequences nonetheless. It’s important that you take it seriously and understand your options. The prosecution wants a quick conviction, and may offer you a plea agreement that seems fair, but is, unfortunately, very one-sided. If you’ve been charged with criminal mischief, you should at least talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney to understand what you’re up against.
Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Lauren Wimmer works with people charged with criminal mischief and a wide variety of other crimes. With knowledge and experience, she provides her clients with an aggressive defense to help them get a fair result. Call Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 or contact us online if you would like to schedule a free consultation about your case and how we can help.
Understand the Charges You Are Facing – Criminal Mischief Defined
We’ve previously discussed criminal mischief, but you can be charged with criminal mischief if you intentionally or recklessly caused damage to another person’s property. Under Pennsylvania law, this includes the following:
- Intentionally, recklessly, or negligently causing damage to property by fire, explosives, or other dangerous means.
- Intentionally or recklessly tampering with the property of another causing danger.
- Intentionally or recklessly causing another person to lose money by deception or threat.
- Intentionally defacing another person’s property with graffiti.
- Intentionally damaging the property of another.
- Intentionally defacing property with a paintball gun.
In light of the above, you can face criminal mischief charges for the following acts:
- Keying a car
- Defacing public or private property
- Setting someone’s property on fire
- Smashing a window on a home, business, or vehicle
It’s important to note that criminal mischief is often an add-on charge with other offenses. For example, you could be charged with criminal mischief for damaging a door during an alleged trespass.
Understand the Potential Penalties
Criminal mischief can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances of your case.
You can be charged with third-degree misdemeanor criminal mischief in the following situation:
- You intentionally or recklessly caused at least $500 worth of damage; OR
- You were defacing public property and caused at least $150 worth of damage.
- If convicted, you face up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,000.
You can be charged with second-degree misdemeanor criminal mischief in the following situation:
- You intentionally caused at least $1,000 worth of damage.
- If convicted, you face two years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Note that you can only be convicted of second-degree misdemeanor criminal mischief if the conduct was intentional.
You can face a third-degree felony criminal mischief charge in the following situation:
- You intentionally caused at least $5,000 worth of damage; OR
- You caused a substantial interruption of public services.
- If convicted, you could face up to seven years in prison and a fine of $15,000
Any other criminal mischief charges are considered summary offenses, and you face up to 90 days in jail and a $300 fine. As you can see, however, you can quickly face very harsh penalties. $5,000 is not a lot of money – a simple act of vandalism could result in years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
Understand What the Prosecution Has to Prove
If you’ve been charged with criminal mischief, it’s important to remember that you are innocent until proven guilty. In other words, the prosecution carries the burden of proof. What the prosecution must prove will vary according to the charge, but the basic elements they must prove are as follows:
- There was damage to property; AND
- The damage was caused by you.
If you were charged with third-degree misdemeanor criminal mischief, for example, the prosecution must also prove the following:
- The damage was intentional; and
- It was at least $500 worth of damage (or $150 for public property).
As a result, the value of the damage to the property is often an issue in many criminal cases. The prosecution must properly assign a value to the damage in order to convict you. If they cannot prove the value of the damage, then you may be able to avoid conviction.
Evaluate the Prosecution’s Case Against You
If you’ve been charged with criminal mischief, you need to candidly evaluate the evidence that the prosecution has. Are there eyewitnesses? Security camera footage? Unfortunately, you may not know what evidence the prosecution has. An experienced criminal defense attorney will know how to find out, as well as collect evidence in your favor.
Consider the Potential Defenses
After evaluating the evidence the prosecution has against you, you will want to give some consideration as to whether there are any defenses that you can raise. Here are some of the common defenses that can be raised in response to a criminal mischief charge:
- You were misidentified or falsely accused
- You did not have the requisite intent
- You believed that the property belonged to you
- There was no actual damage to the property
- You believed that the property owner gave you permission
Understand that if you raise any of these defenses, you will then have to prove that they are true. This will require you to understand the law and introduce evidence supporting your argument.
Hire a Lawyer
A criminal mischief charge may seem like nothing to worry about, but the consequences can be severe. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand the charges you are facing and explain your options. They will know how to challenge the prosecution’s case and be able to identify facts that support your innocence. If a plea agreement is appropriate, they can help you negotiate the best possible resolution.
Call a Philadelphia Criminal Mischief Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation
Criminal mischief is a serious crime with the potential for severe consequences – years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. In addition, you will have a criminal conviction on your permanent record, which may make it difficult to find a job, rent a home, or even qualify for public benefits. A criminal conviction could put substantial limitations on your future, even after you’ve served your sentence and paid your fines.
The good news is that you don’t have to face your charges alone. Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer has the knowledge and experience you need to get a fair result. Call Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and how we can help.