Criminal Mischief in Texas

Have you or a loved one been charged with criminal mischief in the State of Texas? Seek legal representation to avoid putting yourself at the mercy of the unsympathetic courts. Peveto Law offers expert criminal defense in Plano and DFW, Texas. Here we discuss examples of criminal mischief, classifications, penalties, repercussions, and possible defenses. Our goal is to make sure your rights have not been infringed, and that you are given all the compassion the legal system offers citizens, regardless of mistakes they may have made.

What Is Criminal Mischief?

If you’re wondering “what is criminal mischief,” you need only look to Texas Penal Code Section 28.03, which lumps criminal mischief in with arson and other property damage crimes. According to the law, a person commits criminal mischief if he or she:

  • Intentionally or knowingly damages or destroys tangible property belonging to another owner.
  • Intentionally or knowingly tampers with tangible property of another owner, causing loss or inconvenience.
  • Intentionally or knowingly makes markings, inscriptions, slogans, drawings, or paintings on a property.

Examples of Criminal Mischief in Texas

Common examples of criminal mischief may include:

  • Tampering with utility meters to lower the bills
  • Setting one’s own car on fire to get out of the remaining lien payments
  • Spray-painting a wall, breaking a window, or damaging a fixed structure on a business or residence
  • Tearing down walls, spray painting furnishings, pulling out plumbing fixtures in a home
  • Damaging a farm fence to set animals free
  • Ruining joint property, partially owned by a spouse, flat-mate, relative, or significant other
  • Breaking car windows, keying car paint, breaking a headlamp, or tampering with windshield wipers
  • Writing on school walls, desks, or lockers; plugging toilets, showers, and sinks to cause flooding
  • Destroying books or school property as a “prank”
  • Shooting at a person’s home, business, or vehicle

Criminal Mischief Classifications in Texas

Criminal mischief can be classified as follows:

  • Class C Misdemeanor: For losses under $100 or substantial inconvenience to others.
  • Class B Misdemeanor: For losses of $100-$750.
  • Class A Misdemeanor: For losses of $750-$2,500 or damage to public water supply.
  • State Jail Felony: For $2,500-$30,000 in damage
  • For less than $2,500 in damage if a habitable structure was damaged by firearms or explosives.
  • For less than $2,500 in damage if the property was a fence containing livestock or game animals.
  • For less than $30,000 if the damage affects public transportation, gas, power, communication, or service.
  • Third-Degree Felony: For losses of $30,000 to $150,000 or if firearm discharge kills one or more livestock.
  • Second-Degree Felony: For losses of $150,000 to $300,000.
  • First-Degree Felony: For losses over $300,000.

Criminal Mischief Texas Penalties

Criminal mischief in Texas comes with stiff penalties. Even misdemeanors or lesser felonies carry the potential of 10 years in a state penitentiary. The punishment depends upon the particulars of your case — like whether the crime was committed recklessly or with intentional malice, as well as the dollar value of damage.

Texas criminal mischief penalties include:

  • Up to $500 in fines for a Class C Misdemeanor.
  • Up to $2,000 in fines and 180 days in jail for a Class B Misdemeanor.
  • Up to $4,000 in fines and one year in jail for a Class A Misdemeanor.
  • Up to $10,000 in fines and 180 days to 2 years in jail for a State Jail Felony.
  • Up to $10,000 in fines and two to 10 years in jail for a Third-Degree Felony.
  • Up to $10,000 in fines and two to 20 years in jail for a Second-Degree Felony.
  • Up to $10,000 in fines and five to 99 years in jail for a First-Degree Felony.

What Happens If I Have A Criminal Mischief Charge on My Record?

In the immediate aftermath of a criminal mischief charge, you may be subject to restitution on top of court costs, house arrest and paying for the monitoring costs, probation with mandatory meetings and routine drug/alcohol screenings, restrictions to your driving privileges, and mandated community service.

A criminal mischief charge on your record can have serious long-term repercussions as well. If convicted of criminal mischief, you could potentially have a criminal record for the rest of your life. According to the American Bar Association, there are over 900 legal restrictions that apply to those convicted of a crime.

For instance, you will be unable to:

  • Serve as a personal representative or executor of a deceased person’s estate
  • Obtain a license as a motor vehicle dealer, lottery ticket seller, daycare facility owner, or bond dealer
  • Receive federal disaster assistance, student loans, or government employment
  • Obtain a green card, become a naturalized citizen, or change immigration status

If convicted of a felony criminal mischief, you will be unable to:

  • Own a firearm
  • Operate a pyrotechnics display
  • Work in private security

Additionally, you can be denied employment if the company routinely performs background checks and you can be denied the ability to rent housing. Your school can legally expel you. It can be difficult to win custody of a child. If you run into trouble with the law again, the penalties will automatically be much more severe if you have a criminal record.

Beyond all these restrictions, convicted criminals face social stigma and are at increased risk for anxiety, depression, persistent feelings of guilt and shame, and even PTSD, with effects that could last a lifetime.

Can Criminal Mischief Charges Be Dropped?

You may call the Peveto Law Office, wondering, “Can criminal mischief charges be dropped?” Ideal scenarios involve police infringement upon the rights of the accused throughout the process, which makes evidence inadmissible in court or allows the case to be thrown out of court before proceedings begin.

A solid legal defense may be able to prove that you personally did not commit the crime, that you did not intend to damage the property, that the property damage was not as expensive as the plaintiff suggests, or that the plaintiff acted in an emotional state and is now remorseful. In many cases, it is possible to dismiss additional fines and prison time if you agree to repair or repay the property damage in a total and timely manner.

Sometimes guilty plea bargains may be struck to lessen the sentence. Minors or first-time offenders can receive deferred adjudication, rather than probation or prison time. After a period of supervision, it may be possible to get the charges dropped and the defendant’s record expunged.

The first step is a free consultation to discuss the particulars of your situation. You can count on property crime defense attorney Andrew Peveto to thoroughly investigate your case and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process.

Additional Resources:

  1. Texas Penal Code – Section 28.03, https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.28.htm
  2. American Bar Association – National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction, https://www.americanbar.org/groups/criminal_justice/niccc/