What is Criminal Mischief?

Criminal mischief in Ohio is a serious criminal charge. You can be charged with a felony if you intentionally or recklessly damage property belonging to another person. Understanding these criminal charges and the potential penalties for a conviction is the first step in deciding how you should handle your defense. 

If you are facing criminal mischief charges, it is in your best interest to seek legal counsel from an experienced Dayton criminal defense lawyer. An attorney analyzes the charges against you, reviews the evidence from the state, and develops a defense strategy that gives you the best chance of a positive outcome in your criminal case.

What is Criminal Mischief Ohio?

Criminal mischief is defined in Ohio Revised Code (ORC) §2909.07. A new version of the criminal mischief statute went into effect on April 12, 2021. ORC criminal mischief makes it a crime to deface, move, damage, tamper, or destroy property without a legal reason. Criminal mischief also covers a wide variety of offenses in addition to the destruction of property, including some offenses related to computers.

You could face a criminal mischief charge in Dayton if you:

  • Deface, move, destroy, tamper with, or damage the property of another person 
  • Deface, move, destroy, tamper with, or damage your own residential real estate with the intent to decrease its value if you: 1) have a residential mortgage; or 2) you have been served with a pending foreclosure complaint
  • Use a stink bomb, tear gas device, smoke generator, or another device that releases a harmful substance with the intent to interfere with the use and enjoyment of property of another person
  • Deface, destroy, move, damage, or otherwise tamper with a boundary marker, benchmark, monument, triangulation station, survey, or another marker
  • Tamper with, deface, move, damage, or destroy a safety device 
  • Set fire to the land of another person or place personal property that has been set on fire on the property of another person
  • Hack into another party’s computer system to alter, destroy, damage, or modify the computer 
  • Release a computer virus or other software that damages another computer system
  • Knowingly and without authority tamper with or destroy a critical infrastructure facility

Damage to property belonging to another person may result in a criminal mischief charge. However, the state needs to prove each element of criminal mischief to obtain a conviction. 

The state must prove that there was a change in the physical condition or physical location of the property in question. You must damage or alter the condition of the property for the state to obtain a conviction. Being present on the property is not sufficient to rise to the level of criminal mischief. The prosecution needs evidence that the person intentionally damaged the property. 

Also, the statute refers to “knowingly” committing some offenses or committing offenses with the “purpose to interfere.” It is up to the state to prove that the crime met each of these criteria. 

For example, if you unknowingly remove a safety device because you did not see it, the state may not be able to prove criminal mischief. Another example would be accidentally uploading a computer virus to a public library computer because you clicked on a link in an email. You did not “intend” to impair the functioning of the computer or the computer system.

Potential defenses to criminal mischief charges might include:

  • Lack of intent to commit the offense
  • Mistaken identify of a person or property
  • You had consent to do something, such as spray painting a neighbor’s fence
  • The damage was caused by an accident
  • The police violated your constitutional rights

A Dayton criminal defense attorney is the best person to determine the defenses you should use against criminal mischief charges. 

What Are the Potential Penalties for a Conviction on Criminal Mischief Charges?

The penalties you may face for criminal mischief depend on the underlying circumstances and facts of the case. Criminal mischief 3rd degree is the charge that applies in most cases. If you are convicted of a third-degree misdemeanor, you can serve up to 60 days in jail and pay a fine of up to $500.

If the charges include a computer crime or the crime involved a significant risk of physical harm, the charges increase to a first-degree misdemeanor. The potential sentence for a conviction is up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

In some cases, a prosecutor can charge a person with felony criminal mischief if the person commits certain crimes. A person may face a fifth-degree felony if the criminal mischief causes $1,000 to $10,000 in computer damage or damage to aircraft equipment.

The charges rise to a fourth-degree felony if the aircraft is occupied or the computer damage exceeds $10,000. The penalties for felony charges could result in more than a year in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. 

What Should You Do if You Are Charged with Criminal Mischief?

Police officers often use criminal mischief as a catchall charge for conduct they believe should be illegal. Therefore, it is essential that you refrain from answering questions or making any statements until you speak with a Dayton criminal defense attorney. The charges against you might not be valid. The more you talk, the more evidence you give the police.

When the police arrest you, respectfully invoke your right to remain silent. Ask for a lawyer and stop talking. It does not matter if the police officers continue to talk. You need to remain quiet.

Your lawyer will address any questions or issues regarding your criminal charges. Once your attorney reviews the case, he may want to speak with witnesses or other individuals with knowledge of the alleged crime. 

Remember, let your attorney handle these interviews. You do not want to say something that could be used against you in court. Talking to family members or friends could result in those individuals being called as witnesses at your trial. It is best to refrain from discussing the case except with your attorney. 

Contact Our Office to Schedule a Free Consultation with a Dayton Criminal Defense Lawyer

It does not cost you anything to speak with an attorney at our office. Our Dayton criminal defense lawyers Suhre & Associates, LLC offer free consultations. Your appointment is confidential, and you are not under any obligation to hire our law firm after speaking with an attorney.

Contact us today at (937) 531-0435 to schedule your appointment. A criminal conviction can have long-term consequences for your personal life and career beyond any criminal punishments the court might order.