Criminal mischief is a criminal charge in Texas. However, depending on the circumstances, the offense can vary from a Class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. Understanding the nuances of this crime is key to defending your rights and avoiding an unfair punishment.
If you are facing charges of criminal mischief, you need a lawyer. A skilled Plano criminal defense attorney can help navigate the legal landscape to prove your innocence or reduce the penalty.
What Is Criminal Mischief?
According to the Texas Penal Code §28.03, criminal mischief occurs when a person intentionally or knowingly does one of the following:
- Destroys or causes damage to another person’s tangible property
- Tampers with another person’s tangible property and causes pecuniary (financial) loss or serious inconvenience to the property owner or a third party
- Makes markings (inscriptions, drawings, slogans) on another person’s tangible property
As opposed to intellectual property, tangible property is anything you can touch. Examples are vehicles, clothes, jewelry, and equipment.
The third subsection of §28.03 also covers graffiti. Even if these markings don’t damage the property or reduce its cost, they are still an indication of criminal mischief.
What Is the Penalty for Criminal Mischief?
The penalty for criminal mischief depends on the charges and the conviction that follows:
Class C Misdemeanor
You may be charged with a Class C misdemeanor if the financial loss was less than $100 or caused substantial inconvenience to others.
Penalty: Fine that doesn’t exceed $500.
Class B Misdemeanor
You may be convicted of a Class B misdemeanor if the amount of financial damages is more than $100 but less than $750 or if you cause disruptions to the public water supply regardless of the financial consequences.
Penalty: Fine that doesn’t exceed $2,000, a jail term of not more than 180 days, or both
Class A Misdemeanor
You may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor if the amount of financial losses is more than $750 but less than $2,500 or if you cause disruptions to the public water supply regardless of the financial consequences.
Penalty: Fine that doesn’t exceed $4,000, a jail term of not more than a year, or both.
State Jail Felony
You may be charged with a state jail felony if the amount of financial loss is more than $2,500 but less than $30,000. However, you could also face this conviction if the loss was less than $2,500 but your actions caused other serious consequences. These include property damage by firearms and damaging property used for flood control.
Penalty: State jail term of not less than 180 days and not more than two years. A fine that doesn’t exceed $10,000, or both.
You could be charged with a third-degree felony if the financial loss is more than $30,000 but less than $150,000 as well as several other circumstances. These include discharging a firearm to kill cattle or interrupting access to an automated teller machine.
Penalty: Imprisonment for not less than 2 and not more than 10 years, a fine that doesn’t exceed $10,000, or both.
You may be charged with a second-degree felony if the financial loss is more than $150,000 but less than $300,000.
Penalty: Imprisonment for not less than 2 and not more than 20 years. A fine that doesn’t exceed $10,000, or both.
You may be charged with a first-degree felony if the financial loss is more than $300,000.
Penalty: Imprisonment for not less than 5 and not more than 99 years. A fine that doesn’t exceed $10,000, or both.
Common Defenses in Criminal Mischief Cases
If you are convicted of a felony, the consequences can disrupt your everyday life and may hurt your chances of getting a loan or a job. That’s why it’s imperative to fight for your rights and lessen the charges or get them dismissed if possible.
The common defenses your criminal defense attorney can use are:
- Lack of Intent- the law clearly states that criminal mischief involves doing something knowingly or intentionally. If you didn’t intend to cause damage, your attorney can conduct an investigation and collect evidence that proves the lack of intent.
- Mistaken Identity or Alibi – in some cases, the victim may not identify the person responsible for criminal mischief correctly. Your attorney may argue that there is evidence of you not being present at the scene of the crime.
- Lack of Evidence – your attorney could challenge the quality of evidence provided by the prosecution. For example, they could question the reliability of witnesses, the accuracy of surveillance footage, or the chain of custody of the evidence.
- Consent – your criminal defense attorney could argue that you had the consent from the owner of the property to engage in the activity that led to the alleged mischief.
There is also a possibility of raising procedural issues. These include violations of your rights during the investigation or arrest and improper handling of evidence.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Criminal Mischief?
The statute of limitations for criminal mischief cases in Texas is three years for felony offenses and two years for misdemeanors. This means that if charges come after the stated period is over, the judge is highly likely to dismiss the case.
What to Do if You Are Charged With Criminal Mischief
Facing criminal mischief charges is always emotionally taxing. Unfortunately, when people are stressed out, they can’t think clearly and tend to make mistakes. Some of these mistakes could hurt your chances of getting charges dropped or reduced.
That’s why the first step is to call a criminal defense attorney. The moment you gain legal assistance, you can delegate all legal action to a professional. An experienced lawyer can help you navigate a criminal case, conduct an investigation, collect evidence, and build a strong defense.
Criminal Mischief Defense Attorney in Texas
Criminal mischief defense lawyers from Starr Law, P.C. have already helped hundreds of people in Texas protect their rights. Mr. Starr and his legal team will investigate your case, build a strong defense, and present relevant evidence to reduce or drop the charges.
To make sure you have a strong representation that maximizes the chances of a fair outcome, please contact Starr Law, P.C. to schedule a free consultation today.