What is Considered Criminal Mischief?
In the aftermath of a big game at the local high school, a party, or even Halloween, teenagers can sometimes cause trouble in neighborhoods. From egging houses and spray-painting fences to smashing mailboxes or lawn ornaments with baseball bats, what may appear to be a fun and exhilarating thrill can result in serious criminal penalties—even if the suspects aren’t adults. What was once a fun night with friends could turn into a parent’s worst nightmare, especially after getting a call from the jailhouse to learn their teenager is in custody.
In Texas, vandalism or damage to another person’s property is considered “criminal mischief” in Texas. In order to be convicted of criminal mischief, the defendant must’ve knowingly or intentionally damaged property belonging to another person, tampered with someone else’s property that caused significant loss or inconvenience, or “tagged” or drew graffiti on someone else’s property.
The most common examples of criminal mischief include:
- Damage to a home or dwelling
- Damage to a place of business
- Damage to a motor vehicle
- Damage to a school
- Defacement or destruction of public or private property
What are the Penalties for Criminal Mischief in Texas?
The penalties for criminal mischief depend on the value of the property involved. The higher the value, the stiffer the punishment.
The following is a breakdown of the penalties associated with criminal mischief according to the value of the damaged or defaced property:
- Under $100 – Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $500 fine.
- Between $100 and less than $750 – Class B misdemeanor, which carries a jail term of up to 180 days and a maximum $2,000 fine.
- Between $750 and less than $2,500 – Class A misdemeanor, which results in a jail sentence not exceeding one year and a fine no more than $4,000.
- Between $2,500 and less than $30,000 – State jail felony, punishable by a maximum two-year state jail sentence and a fine of up to $10,000.
How to Beat Criminal Mischief in Texas
If your child facing a charge of criminal mischief in Texas, here are some steps that might be beneficial:
Hire an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney: An experienced attorney can help navigate the complexities of the legal system, negotiate with the prosecution, and potentially get the charge downgraded or even dismissed.
Plead Not Guilty: If there's insufficient evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, your attorney may advise you to plead not guilty. This will lead to a trial where the prosecution must prove you committed the crime.
Restitution: Even if the state can prove a person is guilty of criminal mischief, often a defense lawyer can negotiate a dismissal of the case in exchange for payment of the damages to the complaining witness (known as restitution).
Explore Defenses: Depending on the specifics of your case, there may be defenses available. For example, if you can show that you had the owner's consent to damage the property, or if you can argue that the damage was accidental and not intentional.
If you or your child has been charged with criminal mischief in Bryan or College Station, our experienced criminal defense attorney at Shane Phelps Law. can help. For more information, contact us and schedule a free consultation today.