criminal mischief

Criminal Mischief | What is Criminal Mischief in Texas?

What is Criminal Mischief?

According to Texas Penal Code Section 28.03, criminal mischief occurs when an individual intentionally damages or destroys property, tampers with property, causes a loss of inconvenience to the property owner, or creates markings of some kind on an owner’s property. Key to criminal mischief is the damage of the property not possession.

Punishment for Criminal Mischief

Criminal mischief in Texas is punishable as a misdemeanor or as a lesser felony that carries the potential for jail time of up to ten years. The punishment sought depends on the specifics of the crime such as whether the crime was committed intentionally or recklessly and on the value of the damage. It is possible to get this case dismissed in exchange for repair or repayment of the property damage to the owner.

Types of Criminal Mischief

Types of property damages that are categorized as criminal mischief include breaking windows, keying windows, destroying school property and defacing another person’s house with spray paint. It is important to note that individuals who damage their own property cannot be convicted of criminal mischief unless they share ownership with someone else.

  • For Example: Setting a car on fire to get out of making payments would be a crime since the ownership is shared with the lienholder. It is important to note that several acts of criminal mischief may be combined or aggregated, to determine how the crime is charged. That means that several smaller offenses can add up to a much bigger offense.

Punishment with Criminal Mischief

Punishment for this offense is generally decided by the monetary damage:

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under $100Class C Misdemeanor$500 fine
100750Class B MisdemeanorUp to 180 days in jail
7502500Class A MisdemeanorUp to 1 year in jail
250030000State Jail Felony180 days - 2 years state jail
30000150000Third Degree Felony2-10 years in prison
150000300000Second Degree Felony2-20 years in prison
300000+First Degree Felony5-99 years or life

Common Issues with Criminal Mischief

Generally, a property offense charge relies heavily on physical evidence and witness statements. Police must show that the accused knew he didn’t have the right destroy or damage the property, that the accused intended to destroy or damage it and that the accused physically committed the act that caused the damage. The most effective way to combat criminal mischief charges is by challenging the reliability of the physical evidence and the legality of the process police used to find it.

Related Offense: Reckless Damage or Destruction of Property

Under Penal Code 28.04, a person can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor regardless if, without the effective consent of the owner, the person recklessly damages or destroys property of the owner.

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Benson Varghese

Managing Partner at Varghese Summersett PLLC
Benson Varghese is the founder and Managing Partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC. He is a prolific writer and has authored hundreds of articles about criminal law in Texas and at the Federal level. His articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Above the Law, and have been selected as Top Blogs by the State Bar of Texas. He was named the Young Lawyer of the Year in 2019 by the Tarrant County Bar Association. Benson led the firm to become one of the 500 fastest growing businesses in the United States by Inc 500 Magazine in 2018. In the same year, the firm was named the Best Law Firm in Fort Worth by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The lawyers at Varghese Summersett PLLC exclusively handle criminal defense matters.
Benson Varghese