Criminal mischief might sound like a minor offense. But if you damage government property like school buses, then you could face state jail felony charges. The result could be time in prison and other penalties.
Houston Police Department recently responded to a call that thieves had vandalized school buses at the Idea Public School Hardy campus in May 2022. The vandals stole fuel and damaged the vehicles, resulting in the brief cancellation of the school.
This is but one of many incidents of mischief affecting local elementary and secondary schools in the Houston area. Police have no idea who was responsible for the vandalism, and parents were likewise in the dark. If the vandals are caught, however, they could face serious consequences.
Criminal Mischief of School Property
Texas Penal Code Section 28.03 is the state’s criminal mischief statute. It is very broad. It makes it a crime to intentionally or knowingly destroy or damage tangible property belonging to someone else. It is also a crime to “tamper” with or cause “substantial inconvenience” to the owner of property or even to a third person.
Although criminal mischief is usually a Class C misdemeanor, it is a state jail felony if the offense causes at least $750 of damage to schools, including colleges and universities. If you cause more than $30,000 in damage, you can face third-degree felony charges, all the way up to first-degree charges for causing at least $300,000 in damage.
Students could also face criminal charges. Apparently, something called the Tik-Tok “devious lick” challenge consists of damaging school property and filming yourself in the act! As part of this challenge, some students are stealing bathroom mirrors or soap dispensers, or otherwise damaging the sinks. All of this criminal mischief then gets uploaded to Tik-Tok where anyone (including school officials) can see it. Wrecking the bathroom could easily qualify as criminal mischief and send a student to jail if the damage is substantial enough.
Avoid Drawing Graffiti on a School
Penal Code Section 28.08 also criminalizes graffiti when made with paint, indelible marker, or an etching/engraving device. As with criminal mischief, targeting a school will increase penalties. What would normally be a misdemeanor is now a state jail felony if you cause a loss of at least $750 but less than $30,000. Even a little graffiti could cause at least $750 in damage, so avoid the temptation to deface school property.
Can You Defend Against Criminal Mischief?
We can sometimes argue mistaken identity or insufficient evidence. For example, it’s hard to tie graffiti to any individual based on their signature or fingerprints. However, if you are caught in the act—or if surveillance video identifies you—then a defense is much harder to bring. Tik-Tok videos can and will be introduced against you in court.
We strongly encourage anyone accused of criminal mischief to contact Tad Nelson today. Our law office can review the facts and try to get charges dismissed. Graduating with a criminal record is a terrible way to start your adult life. Contact us today; consultations are free!