May 29, 2021 | Criminal Defense
Each state has a law against criminal mischief. The definitions and penalties vary by state. In most cases, it is a crime against personal property.
In Indiana, criminal mischief occurs when a person intentionally destroys, damages, or defaces property belonging to another person. Other states may refer to these crimes as graffiti, vandalism, or the destruction of property.
The charges for criminal mischief range from misdemeanors to felonies. The severity of the punishment depends on the nature of the crime. If you are charged with criminal mischief, you need to take the matter seriously. The outcome could impact your life forever.
What Are the Charges for Criminal Mischief?
Criminal mischief is found in Indiana Code §35-43-1-2. A person who knowingly, recklessly, or intentionally defaces or damages another person’s property without that person’s consent can be charged with criminal mischief.
The charge is a Class B misdemeanor. A conviction carries a potential sentence of up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
However, certain circumstances make the crime more serious. A person could be charged with a Level 4 felony, depending on the property vandalized and the cost of the damages. A Level 4 felony could result in up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The aggravating circumstance that might increase the charges of criminal mischief include:
- Increased value of monetary losses
- The damage disrupts public utility services
- The damage is a law enforcement animal
- The damage is to public record
- The property is a community center, school, or place of religious worship
There are also other specific code sections for cemetery mischief and railroad mischief. Vandalism charges are serious. A strong defense is necessary to try to avoid the worst-case scenario for sentencing.
Special Circumstances That the Court Might Consider
If you are a first-time offender and you are willing to plead guilty or enter a diversion program, the court might reduce your sentence within the statutory range.
Your lawyer can identify mitigating factors that could help you, such as:
- You do not have a prior criminal history
- You were under duress at the time you committed the crime
- The victim caused or encouraged the offense
- You are unlikely to re-offend
- No one was physically harmed by your actions
- You have paid for the damage or will pay for the damage caused by your actions
- There are valid reasons to justify the offense
- You committed the crime against someone who physically or sexually abused you, and you have evidence to prove this allegation
- You are likely to respond positively to the lowest punishment
- You are genuinely remorseful for your actions
- Other people, such as your children and spouse, depend on you for financial support or care
- You were compelled to participate in the offense as an accessory
Your criminal defense lawyer can use special circumstances to argue that you should receive the lowest sentence within the guidelines for the offense.
Are There Defenses to Criminal Mischief Charges in Indiana?
The types of defense strategies that you could use for your criminal mischief charges depend on the circumstances of your case. Law enforcement officers may have identified you from surveillance tapes, which could have led them to arrest the wrong person. If so, you can argue mistaken identity.
Even if you committed criminal mischief, you are still entitled to all your civil rights. If the police officers or the prosecutor violated any of your civil rights, the court could sanction them and throw some or all of the evidence out of court.
If you jointly own the property with the alleged victim, you may argue that you cannot be guilty of destroying your own property. For jointly owned property, if the other owner gave you permission to destroy or deface the property, you might not be guilty of criminal mischief. There could also be situations in which the damage was not a direct result of your actions.
The above defenses will not apply in every situation. Likewise, there could be additional defenses depending on your situation.
What Should You Do if You Are Charged with Criminal Mischief in Indiana?
Realize that you have been charged with a serious criminal offense, and you need to take steps to protect your rights. Do not argue with the police officers or try to explain why you damaged property. Remain silent except for asking for a lawyer.
Do not answer questions or make a statement for the police officers. Your only reply should be that you want an attorney present during ALL questioning. It does not matter if you have been read your Miranda Rights or not. You do not want to answer any questions without an attorney present.