What is Criminal Mischief in Pennsylvania?

Criminal Mischief, 18 Pa.C.S. 3304

A Pennsylvania charge of Criminal Mischief normally means 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. Accidents can also result in charges if the person acted recklessly, which means that a person  disregarded a known risk that something bad could happen.  For example, playing with matches around paper or gasoline would be reckless.  A person knows that paper and gasoline are flammable, so playing with matches is likely to cause a fire and thereby damage property.

Severity of Criminal Mischief Charge in Pennsylvania

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, which would be punished with a fine, but it can also be a felony offense that could carry a sentence that included jail time.  A felony conviction would also trigger a Federal law that prohibits a person from possessing or purchasing a firearm for life. 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

In most cases, restitution is easily determined becuase there are bills to show the costs of repair. However, in some cases, victims 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 the value of a 3-year old TV, not a brand new TV.  Restitution is supposed to put the owner into the same place in which they were before the damage so the owner of a 3-year old TV is entitled to the value of that property and not entitled to a brand new, upgraded TV.

A criminal defense lawyer may be able to challenge the amount of the loss to save the client money when paying restitution, but, more importantly, challenging the value of the loss may reduce the severity of the Criminal Mischief charge.

ARD for Criminal Mischief Charges

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. By avoiding the conviction and getting the records expunged, the person pass background searches and thereby be able to get jobs and continue to possess a firearm.

Experienced Penn State Defense Lawyer

A person charged with Criminal Mischief or any criminal offense should hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to obtain the best resolution possible.  If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal offense in Central Pennsylvania, contact an experienced State College Criminal Mischief defense attorney at JD Law.  Get a free case evaluation via email or by calling (814) 689-9139.