Sometimes what starts as harmless fun can end with criminal charges. Criminal mischief is a common charge that may result from out-of-control parties, pranks and other similar events.
What is criminal mischief?
The legal definition of criminal mischief
A person may be guilty of criminal mischief if one of several conditions applies:
- Intentionally, recklessly or negligently damages tangible property
- Recklessly or intentionally causes another person to suffer a financial loss due to threat or deception
- Intentionally damages private, personal or public property with a paintball gun or paintball marker
- Recklessly or intentionally endangers a person or their property by tampering with tangible property of another
- Damages tangible public property intentionally by using a marker, spray-paint can or similar device for graffiti
- Intentionally causes damage to the personal or real property of another
Penalties for criminal mischief
Criminal mischief may result in a third-degree felony charge if it results in $5,000 or more in financial damages or substantially interrupts or impairs transportation, public communication, gas, water or power supplies or any other public service. A second-degree misdemeanor charge may result if a financial loss greater than $1,000 occurs. For losses that exceed $500 or graffiti that causes more than $150 in damages, the charge may be a third-degree misdemeanor. Otherwise, criminal mischief is usually considered a summary offense.
Because criminal mischief can result in serious charges, it is important to consider the potential consequences before engaging in activities that may result in property damage or the disruption of public services. This is particularly true when engaging in activities with large groups or significant alcohol consumption.