For instance, a teenage son or daughter may believe he or she is just having fun but, in the aftermath of Halloween or a party with friends, a call from the jailhouse is a shock — your child, loved one, or friend needs to make bail. If you face criminal mischief charges, it is essential to find an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer. If you face criminal mischief allegations or charges, the stakes are high.
Criminal Mischief Law in Texas
Under Texas Penal Code § 28.03, you may face criminal mischief charges for a variety of reasons. You may be required to answer a criminal mischief charge in Texas, if the prosecutor believes you had reason to do any of the following:
- You “intentionally” or “knowingly” damaged property that belongs to someone else.
- You “intentionally” or “knowingly” tampered with another person’s property, causing him or her substantial inconvenience or loss.
- You “intentionally” or “knowingly” made marks, inscriptions, or drew graffiti or drawings on another person’s property.
The law identifies several classifications of criminal mischief. These depend on specific circumstances and the amount of property damage resulting from the offense. Examples of criminal mischief can include:
- Destruction or defacement of private or public property
- Spray painting a wall, breaking a window, tearing down a face, or breaking a fixed structure may be considered criminal mischief actions.
- Damage to an automobile
- Breaking car windows, scratching or keying the car paint, breaking a headlamp or windshield wipers, filling the gas tank with water or sugar may be deemed acts of criminal mischief.
- Damage to a place of business
- Breaking a window, door, or a fixture or furnishing in the home or business.
- Damage to a school
- Writing on school walls, desks, or lockers; plugging toilets, sinks, and showers to cause flooding or overflows; or destroying books and school property as a “prank” or for “fun” are likely to be considered as serious criminal mischief acts. Section 28.03 (h) addresses the infliction of criminal mischief on public and private elementary schools, high school and secondary schools, and colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher learning in Texas. An actor committing criminal mischief on a school may be charged with a state jail felony even if the damage or destruction is relatively minimal.
- Damage to a home or habitation
- Damaging another person’s home, such as spray painting his or her furnishings, tearing down a wall, pulling out plumbing fixtures, and so forth may result in criminal mischief charges.
It’s important to note that destroying your own property, such as a personal vehicle or property at home, can be considered an act of criminal mischief is another party has partial ownership in it. For instance, if you’re still making payments on a car and the contract with the lender is in your name, it doesn’t matter. The lender is a part-owner in the property. If you destroy furniture at home during an argument with a spouse, he or she can claim criminal mischief if partial ownership of the damaged property exists.
Criminal Mischief Penalties
If you’re found guilty or you plead guilty to a criminal mischief offense, the following penalties apply:
- A Class C misdemeanor bears a maximum $500 fine when the damage or loss or property is worth $50 or less or the loss or damage causes significant inconvenience to another.
- A Class B misdemeanor requires by up to 180 days of jail time and a maximum $2,000 fine if the damaged or destroyed property is worth a minimum or $50 but less than $500.
- A Class A misdemeanor requires punishment of up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $4,000 when the damaged or destroyed property is worth between $500 and $1,500 when the perpetrator caused impairment/interruption, in part or in whole, to a public service such as public communications, public power supply, public transportation service, and so on; or diverts in part, in whole, or any manner, a public service such as a public communications service or public power supply without consideration of the amount of damages that occurred.
- A State Jail Felony requires punishment of between 180 days to two years in a state jail plus maximum fines of $10,000 for destruction or damage to property (a) valued between $1,500 to $20,000; (b) less than $1,500 if the property that was damaged or destroyed is a house or a home and if the actor used an explosive weapon or firearm to destroy or damage the property; or (c) less than $1,500 if the destroyed or damaged property was fencing used to contain livestock (i) such as cattle, exotic poultry (or other exotic livestock, such as emus), bison, goats, horses, swine, or sheep; or (ii) game animals, as defined by Tex. Parks & Wildlife Code § 63.001. In that case, the convicted offender faces punishment including jail time of 180 days to two years in a state jail and maximum fines of $10,000.
- A Third-Degree Felony requires a two to 10-year prison sentence if damage or destruction of the property involved is at least $20,000 but not more than $100,000 and a maximum fine of $10,000.
- A Second-Degree Felony requires a two to 20-year prison sentence if the property loss or damage is at least $100,000 but not more than $200,000 plus a maximum fine of $10,000.
- A First-Degree Felony requires a five to 99-year prison sentence if the property destruction or damage is at least $200,000+ and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Board-Certified Criminal Mischief Attorney in Houston
Criminal mischief charges are serious. This is an emergency.
If you or someone you love faces criminal mischief charges, it is imperative to hire experienced criminal defense counsel to review every aspect of your case. Houston criminal defense attorney Brett A. Podolsky will work to protect your rights throughout the legal process. He will immediately begin an investigation of your case to ensure that law enforcement followed the law. He will examine the evidence and interview witnesses to decide the merits of your case. He will carefully review all the evidence to identify violations of Constitutional law that could lead to suppression of improperly collected evidence.