Texas Vandalism Laws

The attorneys at the Peveto Law Office in Plano have extensive experience in defending individuals who are charged with criminal mischief. Property damage is always the crux of a criminal mischief charge under the Texas vandalism laws, and the severity of the charge will always be a function of the dollar value of that damage. If you are facing vandalism charges in Texas, you should hire an experienced lawyer who can give you the strongest possible defenses in order to minimize the consequences of those charges.

Vandalism might seem harmless at the time, but if you are charged with misdemeanor or felony criminal mischief, a conviction can hurt your employment opportunities and haunt you in other ways for the rest of your life. Property damage lawyer Andrew Peveto in Plano has the knowledge and experience to challenge Texas criminal mischief charges and to put up the strongest defense possible to preserve your freedom and reputation.

Texas Laws on Vandalism and Criminal Mischief

The Texas passion for football recently caused one or more individuals to cross a line following a hotly-contested high school football game in Victoria County. After a home team victory, school officials discovered thousands of dollars in damage in the visiting team locker room, including slashed seat cushions, torn shower curtains, and a broken water fountain. Texas law enforcement authorities no longer overlook these types of incidents as youthful indiscretions, but instead seek to prosecute the perpetrators for vandalism and criminal mischief.

Under Texas law, a person will be guilty of criminal mischief if he or she intentionally or knowingly destroys, alters, or defaces another person’s tangible property. This includes damaging or tampering with personal property in ways that reduce its value or cause some monetary loss or inconvenience to its owner. Drawing on or marking another person’s property with paint or indelible ink can result in separate charges for graffiti.

Property damage, by itself, is not enough to sustain a criminal mischief charge. A prosecutor must also prove that a defendant acted intentionally or with knowledge that their actions would damage or destroy somebody else’s property. A person can still be charged with reckless conduct if a prosecutor is unable to prove intent.  The specific facts of each case will determine the type of charges that a prosecutor opts to bring.

Potential Punishments for Vandalism in Texas

With one exception, Texas sets a threshold of $2,500 to separate misdemeanor from felony criminal mischief. Losses of less than $2,500 will be charged as a Class A, B, or C misdemeanor, but those charges can still result in jail time of up to one year and fines of up to $4,000 in addition to any restitution that a perpetrator is ordered to pay. If the loss exceeds $2,500, a perpetrator can be charged with felony criminal mischief, which can result in a prison sentence of up to two years and fines of up to $10,000. The one exception to the $2500 value threshold is that Texas law creates a separate felony category for damage to fences that are used to contain livestock, regardless of the dollar value of the damaged fence.

Common Defenses to Vandalism Charges in Texas

No two situations that involve criminal mischief are alike. Consider, for example, a few recent Texas vandalism cases:

  • In June 2018, police charged a Grand Prairie man with criminal mischief for shooting out windows and doors of a number of businesses;
  • In July 2018, a suspect broke into a high school in North Mesquite and broke vending machines and other property;
  • A burglar caused more than $10,000 in losses to a downtown McKinney restaurant in November 2018, breaking out windows and damaging chairs;
  • Three persons were indicted for vandalism in San Antonio in June 2018 after spray-painting slogans in opposition to First Lady, Melania Trump, on the San Antonio Mission National Historical Park Visitor’s Center.

In some of these cases, the perpetrators were caught on videotape while in the course of committing the crimes. Where there is no video or other direct evidence connecting a defendant with specific property damage, it will be more difficult for a prosecutor to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, insufficient evidence is one of the most common defenses available under Texas vandalism laws. Other defenses include:

  • Consent of the owner of the damaged property;
  • The damaged property was owned by the defendant, which raises the sometimes-difficult challenge of proving who owned the property;
  • Accidental damage, or damage without intent;
  • False or incorrect identification of the perpetrator from witnesses.

The defense attorney’s job in every criminal mischief case will be to force the prosecutor to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Busy prosecutors often make assumptions and take shortcuts to persuade juries that a defendant is guilty. A good vandalism defense attorney will spot every hole in a prosecutor’s case and take all legitimate steps to reduce or eliminate the prospects of a conviction.

Facing Texas Vandalism Charges? Call Plano Criminal Defense Lawyer Andrew Peveto

Please call us to schedule an appointment with Texas criminal defense lawyer Andrew Peveto about any criminal mischief charges you may be facing. Our firm  will review your case and explain your options and any consequences that those charges might present.

Additional Resources:

  1. dfw.cbslocal.com: Vandalism. https://dfw.cbslocal.com/tag/vandalism/
  2. victoriaadvocate.com: After Intense Football Game, Thousands of Dollars in Vandalism Discovered in Locker Room. https://www.victoriaadvocate.com/counties/goliad/after-intense-football-game-thousands-of-dollars-in-vandalism-discovered/article_5bcaac5e-e6c1-11e8-bc8a-7727906853d1.html