If you have been charged with criminal mischief in Texas, you need to consult with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure your legal rights are protected. If you try to speak with prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and others on your own throughout your case, you may unknowingly make statements or provide evidence that damages your defense. If you hurt your own defense, you may subject yourself to additional criminal penalties.
What is criminal mischief in Texas?
According to Texas Penal Code Section 28.03, criminal mischief includes:
- Intentionally or knowingly damaging or destroying someone else’s tangible property;
- Intentionally or knowingly tampering with someone else’s tangible property, causing pecuniary loss or substantial inconvenience; or
- Intentionally or knowingly making markings on someone else’s property.
The state must also prove that these crimes were committed without the consent of the owner of the property.
Criminal mischief covers a wide range of incidents. It includes keying someone else’s vehicle, destroying someone else’s computer, or even damaging a fence that is used to contain livestock.
Penalties for criminal mischief in Texas
The penalties for criminal mischief vary depending on the monetary loss the property owner has experienced.
Criminal mischief is a misdemeanor if the amount of the pecuniary loss is less than $2,500. Penalties for misdemeanors in Texas range from a fine of a few hundred dollars to a jail term of up to one year. For more serious misdemeanors, a fine of up to a few thousand dollars may also be ordered.
Once the value of the pecuniary loss exceeds $2,500, the offender may be guilty of a felony.
Felonies also present a range of possible penalties. Someone convicted of a state jail penalty may be sentenced to 180 days in jail and fined up to $10,000. However, someone convicted of a first degree felony may be sentenced to a prison term of between 5 and 99 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
There are other factors that may also impact the penalties ordered for criminal mischief. For example, even if less than $2,500 of damage has been caused, the crime is a state jail felony if a fence enclosing livestock was damaged. Interfering with public utilities may also result in felony charges.
It is important to consult with a criminal defense attorney to be sure the facts of the claim actually meet the elements of criminal mischief.
Defenses to criminal mischief claims
Your criminal defense attorney may be able to raise a number of defenses in your case, depending on the individual circumstances of the claim.
For example, the state must prove that you knowingly or intentionally committed the crime. If you accidentally damaged someone else’s property, you may be able to raise this defense and have your charges reduced, if not dismissed entirely.
The state must also prove that you committed the crime without the property owner’s consent. If the property owner gave you permission to destroy a piece of property, you may be able to raise this defense. For example, perhaps you were asked to drill a hole into a computer hard drive so that it could be recycled.
With an excellent criminal defense attorney on your side, you will be able to fight criminal mischief charges to the extent allowable by law.
Contact the Hampton Eppes Law Group today to discuss your charges
Brian Eppes has years of experience as a Texas prosecutor. He is experienced with the Texas criminal justice system and works hard to defend his clients. To schedule your free consultation, call 817-877-5201 or visit www.hamptonlegalroup.com.