What is a criminal mischief charge in Texas?
Criminal mischief is a crime. It means to intentionally or knowingly damage someone else’s property without that person’s consent. In a nutshell, it’s a crime to break, shatter, or smash other people’s things.
Of major interest, there are three ways to break this law. A person breaks this law if he acts with criminal intent and:
- Damages or destroys property of an owner;
- Tampers with property of an owner that causes the owner or a third person to lose money or be inconvenienced; or
- He marks or writes slogans, drawings, paintings, or inscriptions on the property of an owner.
Equally important, the jail time for this crime will depend on how much it costs to fix or replace the damaged property. For this reason, criminal mischief may carry no jail time at all. Or it can result in a jail term as long as 99 years.
What are examples of criminal mischief in Texas?
Examples of criminal mischief include:
- Slashing someone’s car tires;
- Keying another person’s car;
- Tagging a wall;
- Damaging an ATM machine;
- Rigging a public water line to avoid paying a water bill; and
- Diverting a power or gas line to avoid paying a utility bill.
As these examples show, criminal mischief covers a wide range of conduct.
But the key to this crime is the amount of money it takes to replace or repair the property. The money amount will determine if police charge you with a felony or misdemeanor crime. Notably, the more it costs to fix or repair the property, the higher the jail time you may face. The table below shows how this works.
What are the penalties for criminal mischief in Texas?
|Offense Level.||Money Loss (Pecuniary Loss).||Jail Time.||Fine Amount.|
|Class C Misdemeanor.||If the amount of pecuniary loss is less than $100.00.||None.||Up to $500.00|
|Class B Misdemeanor.||If the amount of pecuniary loss is $100.00 or more but less than $750.00.||Up to 180 days in jail.||Up to $2,000.00.|
|Class A Misdemeanor.||If the amount of pecuniary loss is $750.00 or more but less than $2,500.00.|
Or if the person tampers with or diverts a public water supply.
|Up to 1 year in jail.||Up to $4,000.00.|
|State Jail Felony.||If the amount of pecuniary loss is $2,500.00 or more but less than $30,000. |
Or if the person diverts a public gas or power supply.
|180 days to two years in state jail.||Up to $10,000.00.|
|Third Degree Felony.||If the amount of pecuniary loss is $30,000.00 or more but less than $150,000.00.|
Or if the person causes wholly or partly impairment or interruption of access to an automated teller machine [ATM], regardless of the amount of pecuniary loss.
|2-10 years in prison.||Up to $10,000.00.|
|Second Degree Felony.||If the amount of pecuniary loss is $150,000.00 or more but less than $300,000.00.||2-20 years in prison.||Up to $10,000.00.|
|First Degree Felony.||If the amount of pecuniary loss is $300,000.00 or more.||5-99 years or life in prison.||Up to $10,000.00.|
Texas Criminal Mischief Penalties.Criminal Mischief can be either a felony or a misdemeanor offense. The money amount or pecuniary loss of damaged property will determine the penalty for the crime.
But if a person diverts a public water supply, then he will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. This carries a fine of up to $4,000.00 and one year in jail.
Also, if the person diverts either a public gas or power supply, then he will be charged with a state jail felony. This carries between 180 days and up to two years in state jail. The person can also pay a fine of up to $10,000.00.
Finally, if the person impairs or interrupts access to an ATM, then he will be charged with a Third Degree Felony. This carries 2-10 years in jail and up to a $10,000.00 fine.
Can you get probation for a criminal mischief charge in Bexar County, Texas?
Yes. Prosecutors work out many of these cases with probation deals. This is especially true for misdemeanor crimes. On top of that, probation terms usually includes the following:
- Pay a fine;
- Pay court costs;
- Complete community service hours;
- Attend anger management classes;
- Mental health counseling (MIC);
- Report to a probation officer;
- Drug testing; and
- Pay the victim money for the property damage.
Also, in many cases, police arrest someone for criminal mischief plus another crime. For example, police may arrest someone for assault and criminal mischief. When this happens, the state may drop the criminal mischief case if the person pleads to the assault crime.
Mental Illness may lead to a Criminal Mischief Arrest.
Unfortunately, police often arrest people suffering from a mental illness for a variety of crimes. The most common crime is criminal mischief. But the good news is Bexar County is working to address this problem.
Judges are also aware of this issue. So they will work with the state and the defense to spot these types of cases. This includes setting up a plan to help the person complete probation and stay out of jail.
San Antonio Criminal Defense Attorney.
Criminal mischief is an interesting crime. This is because in a sense the true victim of the crime is not the person but his or her property. This makes it possible for you to fix or replace the property. You can do this by having your insurance provider cover the cost. Or you can work with the prosecutor to pay back the victim for the money they lost.
Critically, paying the victim back may help you in the long run. It will show you regret what happened. And it will also show your remorse. This will increase your chances of working the case out on terms you can live with.
Of course, if you are innocent, then you can always fight your case. And you can do this by asking simple questions. For example, did the police arrest the right person? Or, did you damage the property by mistake or accident instead of on purpose? The answers to these types of questions will provide the outline for your defense.
San Antonio Defense Attorney Genaro R. Cortez.