When you hear a term like “criminal mischief” it sounds like something that’s no more serious than a couple of teenagers throwing toilet paper in trees to prank a neighbor – but criminal mischief can actually be a serious crime in Texas.
Criminal mischief, as defined in the Texas Penal Code, refers to a wide range of actions that involve knowingly or intentionally damaging or destroying someone else’s property, or tampering with their property in such a way that it causes financial losses or a substantial inconvenience.
What are some examples of criminal mischief?
Understanding criminal mischief can be easier with specific examples. Generally speaking, you might be charged this way for things like:
- Spray-painting on or otherwise defacing either public or private property without the owner’s consent, including bridges and railway cars
- Deliberately breaking the windows of a vehicle, popping a tire or “keying” a vehicle in anger
- Removing or turning road signs, destroying playground equipment or kicking out the glass on a bus shelter
- Using any method to bypass the meter for your gas, water or electricity
- Throwing eggs at someone’s house or throwing paint on someone’s fur coat
- Tampering with and destroying security cameras or alarms
- Purposefully setting off a fire sprinkler system inside a building
- Grabbing someone’s smartphone, tablet or laptop and throwing it on the ground
- Filing someone’s car with shaving cream or soap suds
- Chasing or leading livestock into buildings or other places where they cause damage or cannot easily be removed
- Knocking over mailboxes and breaking fences
In other words, there are so many ways that criminal mischief can happen that it’s impossible to list them all – and many of them are acts that are done rashly or are the result of high spirits.
How serious is this offense?
Charges for criminal mischief range in severity, as does the punishment when someone is convicted. At minimum, when the financial loss to the property’s owner is $100 or less, the crime is charged as a Class C misdemeanor, which could lead to a fine. Even just a little over that amount, however, bumps the offense up to a Class B misdemeanor, which can involve jail time. If the dollar value is high enough or certain aggravating criteria are present, the charges can be at the felony level.
If you find yourself involved in a situation where you’re accused of criminal mischief, you won’t want to try to defend yourself. Seeking legal guidance can help you understand the charges you face, the potential penalties and what possible defenses you may have. Having an experienced legal advocate fighting for your rights will give you the best chance for a favorable resolution to your situation.