What is Criminal Mischief in Pennsylvania?

Criminal Mischief, 18 Pa.C.S. 3304

A Pennsylvania charge of Criminal Mischief is an allegation that a person caused damage to someone else’s property.  The damage could be intentional, like keying a car, throwing a rock through a window, or using spray paint to create graffiti.  Charges can also be based upon accidental conduct if the person acts recklessly.  Recklessly means that a person disregarded a known risk that something bad could happen.  For example, playing with matches around paper or gasoline.  A person knows that paper and gasoline are flammable, so playing with matches is likely to cause a fire and thereby damage property.

Value of Damage to Property

Obviously, when property is damaged, the value of the property is reduced.  The amount of the loss directly impacts the severity of the Pennsylvania Criminal Mischief charge.  The greater the loss, the more severe the charge, and the harsher the possible penalties.  The charge can be a relatively minor summary offense, but it can also be a felony offense.  Convictions of Criminal Mischief may result in a sentence of probation or jail time, and payment of costs and fines.  A sentence for a charge of criminal mischief will almost assuredly contain a requirement that the person pay restitution.  Restitution is normally the value of the loss.

Determining Value of Loss

Victims may try to inflate the value of the property so that they can recover more money through restitution.  Victims also think that they are entitled to replacement value of the lost item, meaning they replace a 3-year old TV that was broken with a brand new TV, and they seek the cost of a new TV.  The value of the loss in that scenario is a 3-year old TV, not a brand new TV.  The role of the criminal defense lawyer is to challenge the amount of the loss to reduce the severity of the charge and thereby reduce the sentence that is imposed.  In some Criminal Mischief cases, the prosecutor is agreeable to a resolution called Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) that would allow the person to avoid the conviction and get the charges dismissed and then expunged.  If a conviction cannot be avoided, reducing the severity of the charge can also impact long term consequences, such as minimizing the effect on criminal background searches.  An employer is more likely to hire a person with a misdemeanor conviction on a record when compared to a felony.  Also, by reducing the charge, the person may be eligible to have the conviction expunged or sealed in the future.

Experienced Penn State Defense Lawyer

A person charged with Criminal Mischief should hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to challenge the charge and try to obtain the best resolution possible.  A conviction of any offense carries an immediate punishment in the form of probation and payment of fines, costs, and restitution.  A conviction can also put a mark on a person’s criminal record that will make it more difficult to obtain a job or find an apartment in the future.  If you or a loved one has been charged with criminal mischief or another criminal offense at Penn State or State College, get a free case evaluation from an experienced defense attorney at JD Law via email or by calling (814) 954-7622.