Severity of Pennsylvania Criminal Mischief Charge
Grading and Penalties for Criminal Mischief
A charge of criminal mischief alleges that a person caused damage to property. The severity of a Pennsylvania criminal mischief charge is primarily based upon the value of the property that was damaged, ranging from as low as a summary offense to a misdemeanor to a felony. While summary offenses are not as severe as misdemeanor or felony offenses, summary convictions can appear on background searches that are often conducted by private employers and even landlords, so convictions of even minor offenses can have an impact on a person’s ability to get a job. Pennsylvania classifies criminal mischief as:
- Third Degree Felony – maximum sentence of 7 years in jail and a $15,000.00 fine – if the value of the loss or damage exceeds $5,000.00 or if the damage causes a “substantial interruption or impairment of public communication”
- Second Degree Misdemeanor – maximum sentence of 2 years in jail and a $5,000.00 fine – if the value of the loss is over $1,000.00
- Third Degree Misdemeanor – maximum sentence of 1 year in jail and a $2,000.00 fine – if the defendant intentionally or recklessly causes a loss above $500.00 OR if the loss was over $150.00 and was the result of defacing public property with graffiti
- Summary – maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $300.00 fine – covers all criminal mischief charges not included above
Value of Loss in Criminal Mischief
In a criminal mischief case, the prosecution must prove that the person caused damage to the property AND must prove the value of the loss or damage to property. Therefore, even if the person damaged the property, it may be possible to fight the severity of the charge based upon the damage caused. Many victims try to use the replacement value of the item as the value of a loss, but the owner is NOT generally entitled to replacement value. The amount of the loss is the reduction to the current value. For example, if damage is caused to a fence that is 5 years old, the owner will often try to claim that the loss is the replacement value, meaning the cost of buying a new fence. Replacement value is normally NOT the value of the loss. The true amount of the loss is the value of the 5-year old fence.
A person convicted of criminal mischief faces a sentence that could include probation or jail time, payment of fines, costs, and restitution. A conviction of a criminal offense also has collateral consequences, such as a more difficult time finding employment; possible issues with licensing for professionals like doctors, engineers, nurses, and lawyers; and removal from schools such as Penn State. A person charged with criminal mischief should have an experienced criminal defense attorney review the case, discuss possible defense strategies, and review possible collateral consequences of the criminal conviction.
Experienced State College Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with criminal mischief, you should speak with a lawyer immediately about your options to mitigate the situation. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney at JD Law at (814) 689-9139 or email us to schedule a free consultation.