At some point, nearly everyone experiences a surge of emotions that feels difficult to control. Whether you are overcome with grief, enraged by a perceived betrayal or willing to do anything to be part of the crowd, you may find yourself doing things that are unreasonable and perhaps even destructive.

If you are facing charges of criminal mischief, it is because authorities believe you damaged someone else’s property. While that may sound like a situation that is simple to resolve, there are many factors that determine how severe the penalties may be if a court convicts you. Having a legal professional as your ally is a wise move when dealing with these charges.

Understanding the charges against you

Criminal mischief can range from simple graffiti to the total destruction of property. Whether the damage was accidental or intentional is not always important. The court will work to determine if you understood that your actions could result in the destruction or damage of property. If so, the charges of criminal mischief may stand even if the damage was not willful. Additionally, the value of the damage determines the level of charges and the penalties for conviction, for example:

  • Damage less than $300 is a Class 3 misdemeanor, and a conviction could mean as much as $750 in fines and six months in jail.
  • Damage between $1,000 and $5,000 is a felony that could result in fines up to $5,000 and 18 months in prison.
  • Damage between $20,000 and $100,000 is a Class 4 felony carrying penalties of six years in prison and as much as $500,000 in fines.
  • Damage of $1 million or more could result in a two-year prison sentence and up to $1 million in fines.

When assigning penalties for a conviction, the court will factor in your age. If you are under 18, you may be eligible for alternative sentences under certain circumstances. However, criminal mischief related to other crimes, such as hate crimes or domestic violence, may result in much more severe penalties.

Whether you are facing misdemeanor or felony charges of criminal mischief, having a strong defense is critical. Even a misdemeanor conviction can create hardships for you long into the future, so your goal should be to avoid having a conviction on your record. The representation of an experienced attorney can assist you toward that goal.