man spraying graffiti

What is Criminal Mischief?

Criminal mischief: maybe you’ve heard the term before and wondered what it meant, or perhaps you’re facing criminal mischief charges in Texas and need some legal help. Either way, it’s important to know what this concept means. Here’s what you need to know.

What Does Criminal Mischief Mean?

Criminal mischief is a property crime. Also called vandalism, criminal mischief is defined under Texas Penal Code Section 28.03 as a crime in which the person acted knowingly and intentionally to damage, tamper with, deface, or destroy a piece of property without the consent of the owner. This can cover all types of actions, such as tagging a wall with graffiti, breaking windows, slashing tires, egging houses, destroying fences, tampering with an emergency exit, and much more. It can also cover any action intended to cause public alarm or any reckless actions that demonstrate a disregard for consequences and result in property damage.

The important thing to remember about proving criminal mischief is intent. Accidentally breaking someone’s window while playing baseball, for example, would not fall under the umbrella of criminal activity; intentionally breaking the windows of someone you don’t like would.

Is Criminal Mischief a Misdemeanor or a Felony in Texas?

Depending on the amount of monetary (pecuniary) loss the defendant’s alleged actions caused, he or she may be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony.

In Texas, misdemeanor criminal mischief charges include:

  • Class A misdemeanor - Pecuniary loss of $750 - $2,500

  • Class B misdemeanor - Pecuniary loss of $100 - $750

  • Class C misdemeanor - Pecuniary loss of less than $100 or if the alleged act caused substantial inconvenience to others

Felony criminal mischief charges include:

  • Felony of the first degree - Pecuniary loss of $300,000 or more

  • Felony of the second degree - Pecuniary loss of $150,000 to $300,000

  • Felony of the third degree - Pecuniary loss of $30,000 to $150,000

  • State jail felony - Pecuniary loss of $2,500* to $30,000

*A loss of less than $2,500 may still be a state jail felony if the property damaged or destroyed is (a) a habitation and if the damage or destruction is caused by a firearm or explosive weapon, or (b) if the property was a fence used for the production or containment of certain animals.

What are the Penalties for Criminal Mischief in Texas?

The penalties for criminal mischief depend on the severity of the crime and the degree to which people were placed at risk as a result of the activity.

  • Class C misdemeanors are punishable by a maximum fine of $500

  • Class B misdemeanors are punishable by a maximum fine of $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail

  • Class A misdemeanors are punishable by a maximum fine of $4,000 and up to one year in jail

  • State jail felonies and third degree felonies are punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to two years in prison

  • Second degree felonies are punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000 and two to 20 years in prison

  • First degree felonies are punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000 and five to 99 years in prison

Recommended reading: The Difference Between Jail and Prison

What to Do if You Have Been Charged with Criminal Mischief

Criminal mischief charges are common here in Brazos County, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t serious. A conviction, even for a misdemeanor charge, can come with significant fines and potentially life-altering jail or prison sentences. If you’ve been accused, it is important to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal process.

If you have been accused of a vandalism crime, our criminal defense team can help. Call Rodriguez & Gimbert P.L.L.C. now at (979) 559-3599 to request a confidential case review.