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What Does “Criminal Mischief” Mean in Texas?

According to Texas Penal Code 28.03, criminal mischief refers to the act of intentionally damaging or vandalizing another person’s property and thereby causing monetary loss and inconvenience. In most cases, criminal mischief is charged and punished as a misdemeanor, but in more extreme cases, it carries felony charges. Ultimately, the type and amount of damage caused determines the punishment.

At the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, we understand how great of an impact criminal charges can have on a person’s life. If you were arrested and charged with criminal mischief in Houston, you face large fines, probation, and even jail time. Do not let a bit of mischief ruin your future. Reach out to our Houston misdemeanor crimes lawyer for help building a defense and protecting your rights.

Types of Criminal Mischief

Though criminal mischief crimes vary, each one invariably ends in costly damage. Types of property damage that are categorized as criminal mischief under state law include breaking windows, destroying school or government property, defacing another person’s house, keying vehicles, or marking property with spray paint. Criminal mischief charges cannot be brought against a person who damages his or her own property unless that property is shared and the other owner wants to press charges. For instance, if a person sets fire to his or her vehicle to get out of making car payments, the lienholder can bring charges against the owner. Additionally, several acts of criminal mischief may be aggregated to make a much bigger, more serious offense, which is something to think about.  

Punishment for Criminal Mischief

Though most criminal mischief crimes are treated as misdemeanors in Texas, a more serious offense can be charged as a lesser felony and be punishable by jail time of up to ten years. What the state chooses to prosecute an offense as all depends on the value of the damage. For a better idea of what kind of punishment you are looking at for your crime, consider the following:

  • For damage of less than $100, you may be charged with a Class C misdemeanor and fined $500;
  • For damage between $100 and $750, you would be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, fined, and sentenced up to 180 days in jail;
  • For damage between $750 to $2500, you would be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, fined, and sentenced up to one year in jail; and
  • For damage between $2500 and $30,000, you would be charged with a state felony, fined and sentenced up to two years in state jail.  

Many criminal mischief charges do not go beyond a state felony, but outstanding damage of more than $30,000 can result in heavier felony charges and up to 10 to 20 years in prison. For damage that exceeds $300,000, a person may be charged with a first degree felony and serve anywhere between five years and 99 years.

Your Defense to Criminal Mischief Charges

In criminal mischief cases, the prosecution relies heavily on physical evidence and witness statements. Any video recordings from surveillance cameras, eyewitness testimonies, photographs, and written statements of the incident all need to show that the accused knew he did not have the right to destroy the property, that the accused intended to destroy the property, and that the accused physically committed the act that resulted in destruction. A skilled Houston misdemeanor crimes lawyer might challenge the reliability of the physical evidence and the method the police used to collect it.

If you were charged with criminal mischief in Houston, Galveston, or League City, your future is at stake. Do not assume that everything will turn out just fine and reach out to The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates for legal assistance today. Call (281) 280-0100 today.