TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Mischief is a term that is used in a variety of ways, and in the state of Texas, it could even land you in prison.
Criminal mischief is a charge that can be applied under specific circumstances. It can be confused with vandalism, which is a form of criminal mischief. According to Texas Penal Code, criminal mischief is defined as:
- When a person intentionally damages or destroys another individual’s property.
- When a person intentionally tampers with someone’s property which results in a “substantial inconvenience” or financial loss
- When a person intentionally marks or writes on another individual’s property
This offense can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the damage done to the property. Misdemeanors are divided into classes A-C, depending on the seriousness of the offense. Felonies range in degrees also depending on the seriousness of the offense.
Misdemeanors are not considered as serious as felony-level offenses, but can still carry significant penalties. Punishments vary depending on the specific charge, as outlined below:
Class C Misdemeanor
CHARGE CRITERIA: If the financial loss is $100 or less or it leads to a “substantial” problem, the charge is a class C misdemeanor.
PUNISHMENT: The offender could be fined up to $500.
Class B Misdemeanor
CHARGE CRITERIA: If the financial loss is more than $100 but less than $750, the charge is a class B misdemeanor.
PUNISHMENT: A person could be sentenced to up to 180 days in jail and/or fined up to $2,000.
Class A Misdemeanor
CHARGE CRITERIA: If the financial loss is greater than $750 but under $2,500, it is a class A misdemeanor. If the offender partially or completely causes any impairment or interruption to a public water supply, regardless of financial loss, it is a class A misdemeanor.
PUNISHMENT: The offender could be sentenced to one year in jail and/or fined up to $4,000.
State Jail Felony
CHARGE CRITERIA: Typically, this criterion includes a financial loss that is greater than $2,500 and less than $30,000. However, under certain circumstances, incidents that result in a financial loss of under $2,500 can be a state jail felony if:
- The property damage is a habitation and if the damage was due to a firearm or explosive weapon.
- The property was a fence used to hold cattle, bison, horses, sheep, swine, goats, exotic livestock, poultry, or certain game animals.
- Damage of more than $750 was done to a place of worship, human burial, public monument, community center, public or private school.
PUNISHMENT: A person could face between 180 days to two years in jail. They could also be fined up to $10,000.
Third Degree Felony
CHARGE CRITERIA: If the amount of financial loss is greater than $30,000 but less than $150,000, it is a third-degree felony. Additionally, if the actor uses a weapon to cause the death of one or more head of cattle, bison or horses, it is a third-degree felony. If the actor causes entire or partial interruption of access to an ATM, regardless of financial loss, it is a third-degree felony.
PUNISHMENT: A person could face between two years and 10 years in prison, and could face a fine of up to $10,000.
Second Degree Felony
CHARGE CRITERIA: If the amount of financial loss is more than $150,000 but less than $300,000, it is a second-degree felony.
PUNISHMENT: A second-degree felony carries a sentencing range of two to 20 years and a potential fine of up to $10,000.
First Degree Felony
CHARGE CRITERIA: If the amount of financial loss is $300,000 or more, it is a first-degree felony.
PUNISHMENT: A person could face imprisonment between 5 and 99 years, in addition to a potential fine of up to $10,000.
To get more in-depth information on criminal mischief and its related charges, you can find the section of the Texas Penal Code here.