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What Counts as Criminal Mischief?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

Although many criminal charges are very specific, others, such as criminal mischief, can encompass a wide variety of criminal behavior.

Criminal mischief generally includes what is commonly known as vandalism, dealing mainly with crimes committed against property such as defacing someone's building with graffiti or breaking the windows of a business. Although vandalism may be included under state criminal statutes forbidding "criminal damage" or "malicious trespass," in many states, vandalism may be charged as criminal mischief.

What typically counts as criminal mischief? Here are a few examples of criminal mischief laws in different states:

  • Texas. Under the Texas Penal Code, criminal mischief includes knowingly damaging or destroying another person's property or tampering with the property of a person if that tampering causes loss or substantial inconvenience to the owner or another individual. Texas' criminal mischief statute also forbids intentionally or knowingly making markings "including inscriptions, slogans, drawings, or paintings" on another person's property. In Texas, criminal mischief is a felony if it causes a loss of more than $1,500 or involves fencing used for livestock or game animals.
  • Alabama. Under Alabama law, criminal mischief is considered intentionally inflicting damage to property, when you have no right (or reasonable grounds to believe that you have a right) to do so. Criminal mischief is a felony in Alabama if the damages exceed $2,500 or are inflicted by means of an explosion. Otherwise, criminal mischief is either a Class A or Class B misdemeanor.
  • New York. New York also charges criminal mischief as a felony when a person intentionally damages another person's property (without right or reasonable grounds to believe he has a right) in an amount exceeding $1,500 or by means of an explosion. Misdemeanor criminal mischief in New York includes a number of different acts such as breaking into a locked vehicle to steal property or intentionally participating in the destruction of an abandoned building.

If you've been charged with criminal mischief or another crime, a criminal defense attorney can explain your legal options and represent you in court. You can learn more about criminal charges, criminal court procedure, and your constitutional rights at FindLaw's section on Criminal Law.

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