While the term “criminal mischief” may not sound too severe, the consequences of this charge can be far-reaching and should not be taken lightly. In the state of Colorado, criminal mischief charges can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony, and the resulting conviction can lead to jail time, probation, and a lasting criminal record. In this post, we will delve into the details of criminal mischief, explore the implications of this charge, and discuss how a criminal defense attorney can help you navigate this challenging terrain.
What Is Criminal Mischief?
Criminal mischief (aka “vandalism” or “destruction of property”) is a legal term that refers to the intentional and unlawful damage of another person’s property, including property jointly owned by the accused. Damage of this kind commonly occurs during domestic disputes or arguments between neighbors.
The severity of the charge often hinges on the extent of the damage. Sometimes, the monetary equivalent of the damage caused is fairly similar to the current market value of the item in question. In certain circumstances, though, other factors come into play, such as the original purchase price or the cost to replace the item.
Is Criminal Mischief a Felony or Misdemeanor?
The classification of criminal mischief charges depends on the amount of damage caused (in terms of monetary value). The state of Colorado has specific guidelines for classifying this offense, which can be a petty offense, a misdemeanor, or a felony. See the chart below for some specific penalties.
|Amount of Damage||Penalties for Criminal Mischief in Colorado|
|Less than $300||Petty offense: up to 10 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $300|
|Between $300 and $1000||Class 2 misdemeanor: up to 120 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $750|
|Between $1000 and $2000||Class 1 misdemeanor: up to 364 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1000|
|Between $2000 and $5000||Class 6 felony: 1-1.5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000|
|Between $5000 and $20,000||Class 5 felony: 1-3 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000|
|Between $20,000 and $100,000||Class 4 felony: 2-6 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $500,000|
|Between $100,000 and $1 million||Class 3 felony: 4-12 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $750,000|
|Upwards of $1 million||Class 2 felony: 8-24 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000,000|
Note: If the criminal mischief occurred during a domestic violence-related dispute, the suspect is placed under a mandatory protective order, regardless of whether or not the damage was intentional.
Can Criminal Mischief Charges Be Dropped?
Perhaps one of the most enduring consequences of a criminal mischief conviction is the criminal record that accompanies it. This record can negatively impact your ability to secure gainful employment, housing, and more. Many employers require applicants to disclose any misdemeanor or felony convictions, and this disclosure can drastically reduce your chances of securing a job.
However, all hope is not lost. If your case gets dismissed, any record of the charges can be sealed right away. This is certainly preferable to being convicted of the charges, which would require a 2-3 year waiting period before record sealing is an option. This is why working with a skilled lawyer is crucial, as they can best navigate your case to get the charges dropped and avoid a conviction.
Suspended Sentence: Probation as an Alternative
In some instances, individuals may be offered a suspended sentence in place of jail time. This is often referred to as probation. While it does keep you out of prison, probation comes with stringent terms and conditions. Violating these terms can lead to your probation being revoked, and you may find yourself serving the initial sentence (or worse). Your criminal defense attorney plays a crucial role in negotiating favorable probation terms, ensuring that you can maintain your freedom while adhering to the requirements set by the court.
Common Legal Defenses Against Criminal Mischief Charges in Colorado
Defending against criminal mischief charges in Colorado requires a strategic and tailored approach. While every case is unique, several common legal defenses may be employed to combat these charges effectively. Here are some of the most common legal defenses used in Colorado:
- Lack of Intent: Criminal mischief charges often hinge on the element of intent. If it can be established that the damage to the property was accidental or unintentional, this can be a powerful defense. In such cases, the accused did not willfully intend to commit a criminal act.
- Mistaken Identity: In some instances, individuals may be wrongly identified as the culprits in property damage cases. A strong defense can involve proving that the accused was not the person responsible for the damage or that there is insufficient evidence to link them to the crime.
- Consent: If the property owner gave explicit consent for the accused to engage in an activity that resulted in property damage, this consent can be a valid defense. For example, if the property owner allowed someone to paint a room and damage occurred during the process, consent may be a strong defense.
- Lack of Sufficient Evidence: In any criminal case, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution. If there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the accused committed the act of criminal mischief beyond a reasonable doubt, a defense attorney can argue for a lack of evidence to secure a conviction.
- Duress or Necessity: In some situations, individuals may be compelled to engage in an activity that results in property damage due to duress or necessity. Duress involves being forced or threatened into committing the act, while necessity arises when a person commits property damage to prevent a greater harm. These defenses can be complex but may be applicable in specific cases.
- Plea Bargaining: In some cases, it may be in the accused’s best interest to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution. This could involve a reduced charge or a more lenient sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. An experienced defense attorney can assess the viability of this option.
Seeking Legal Defense: The Key to Mitigation
When faced with criminal mischief charges, the importance of seeking legal defense cannot be overstated. A criminal defense attorney with expertise in Colorado’s legal system can make all the difference. These legal professionals understand the nuances of the law and are equipped to build a strong defense strategy tailored to your case.
At MBS Law, our lawyers are equipped with the knowledge and experience to secure you the best possible outcome in your criminal mischief case. You don’t have to face these charges alone; contact us today for a FREE consultation.