Criminal Mischief in Texas

May 4, 2024 | By Shane Phelps Law
Criminal Mischief in Texas

What is Considered Criminal Mischief?

Criminal Mischief in Texas

In the excitement 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 a fun and exhilarating thrill can result in criminal penalties—even if the suspects are juveniles.

What started as 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.

Guilt of criminal mischief requires the person must have:

  • On purpose or knowingly damaged someone else’s property
  • Altered another person’s property in a way that caused a loss or problem
  • Painted graffiti or “tagged” property that didn’t belong to them

The most common types of criminal mischief in Texas include damage to:

  • residential dwellings
  • places of business
  • motor vehicles
  • schools
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What Are the Penalties for Criminal Mischief In Texas?

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 – A Class C misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $500 fine.
  • Between $100 and less than $750—This is a Class B misdemeanor, with 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 under $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.

When minors engage in criminal mischief, they face unique consequences within the juvenile justice system.

In addition to fines and restitution, young offenders could face:

  • Juvenile Detention: Depending on the severity of the offense and the minor’s prior record, they may be sent to a juvenile detention center for a while. This can significantly impact their education, mental health, and prospects.
  • Probation: The court may place the juvenile on probation, which involves supervision by a probation officer, regular check-ins, and possibly community service or counseling.
  • Community Service: As part of their sentence or a diversion program, minors may be required to complete a set number of hours of community service, such as cleaning up graffiti or assisting with neighborhood beautification projects.
  • Counseling or Therapy: The court may order the juvenile to attend counseling or therapy sessions to address any underlying issues contributing to their behavior, such as anger management or substance abuse.
  • Alternative Education Programs: In some cases, the minor may be required to attend alternative education programs or schools focusing on behavioral improvement and rehabilitation.

Parents must understand that a conviction for criminal mischief can have long-lasting consequences for their child, affecting their education, employment opportunities, and overall future. 

If your child faces criminal mischief charges, seek the guidance of an experienced juvenile defense attorney who can protect their rights and explore options for minimizing potential penalties.

How to Beat Criminal Mischief In Texas

If your faces a charge of criminal mischief in Texas:

  1. Hire an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney: An experienced attorney can navigate the complexities of the legal system, negotiate with the prosecution, and potentially get the prosecutor to downgrade or even drop the charges.
  2. 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.
  3. Restitution: Even if the state can prove a person is guilty of criminal mischief, a defense lawyer can often negotiate a dismissal of the case in exchange for payment of the damages to the complaining witness (known as restitution).
  4. Explore Defenses: A suitable defense may be available depending on your case’s specifics. You may have a defense if you can prove you accidentally damaged the property.
  5. Gather Evidence: Work with your attorney to collect evidence that supports your case, such as photographs of the alleged damage, witness statements, or any documentation that proves your innocence or mitigates your involvement in the crime.
  6. Investigate the Complainant: Your attorney may investigate the background of the person accusing you of criminal mischief to determine if they have ulterior motives or a history of making false accusations.
  7. Consider a Plea Bargain: Your attorney may negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution for reduced charges in exchange for a guilty plea. This can help if you face strong evidence against you.
  8. Emphasize Remorse and Rehabilitation: If the court finds you guilty, showing genuine remorse and a willingness to participate in rehabilitation programs or community service may help convince the court to impose a more lenient sentence.
  9. Expunction or Sealing of Records: After completing the sentence, your attorney may explore options for expunction or sealing your child’s criminal record. This can help minimize the long-term impact of a criminal mischief conviction on your future.

Each case is unique, and the best strategy for defending against a criminal mischief charge will depend on the specific circumstances of your situation. 

An experienced criminal defense attorney can provide personalized guidance and help you build a solid defense to protect your or your child’s rights and future.

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.

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