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Criminal mischief is what Texas calls vandalism or destruction of property. Although criminal mischief is often a crime associated with teens, many adults find themselves faced with criminal mischief charges as well. Under the Texas Penal Code, criminal mischief involves tampering with, damaging, or destroying property. Graffiti is also a related property crime.

Elements of Texas Criminal Mischief

The Texas Penal Code provides that a person commits criminal mischief when:

  • without the effective consent of the owner;
  • he or she intentionally or knowingly;
  • damages or destroys the tangible property of the owner.

If the property is destroyed, the amount of the loss is either “the fair market value of the property at the time and place of the destruction” or, “if the fair market value of the property cannot be ascertained, the cost of replacing the property within a reasonable time after the destruction.” If the property is damaged, the amount of the loss is “the cost of repairing or restoring the damaged property within a reasonable time after the damage occurred.”

Some examples of vandalism include:

  • Using spray paint to deface someone’s property
  • Slashing car tires
  • Breaking windows
  • Keying an automobile
  • Damaging or destroying school property
  • Damaging someone’s house

Criminal Mischief Misdemeanor Offenses

The monetary amount of the loss (referred to as the pecuniary loss) sets the level of the offense and applicable penalty. In limited circumstances, if the pecuniary loss value cannot be determined, the amount is the cost of replacing the property within a reasonable time after the destruction. When property is damaged – as opposed to destroyed – the amount of pecuniary loss is determined by the cost of repairing or restoring the damaged property within a reasonable time after the damage occurred.

Under most circumstances, if the amount of pecuniary loss is a misdemeanor unless the value is $1,500 or greater.

Class Punishment Pecuniary Loss Value
Class A Misdemeanor The penalty faced is up to one year in jail and/or up to a $4,000 fine. If the loss is $500 or more but less than $1,500
Class B Misdemeanor The penalty faced is up to 180 days in jail and/or up to a $2,000 fine. If the loss is $50 or greater but less than $500
Class C Misdemeanor The penalty faced is a fine of up to $500.00. If the loss is less than $50 or it causes substantial inconvenience to others

Enhanced Penalties for Criminal Mischief

An offender can also be charged with Class A Misdemeanor criminal mischief if the pecuniary loss is less than $500 but he or she also:

  • caused impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public gas or power supply, or other public service, or
  • diverted or in any manner disrupted, including installation or removal of any device for any such purpose, any public communications or public gas or power supply;  or
  • caused impairment or interruption of any public water supply, or
  • caused to be diverted any public water supply, regardless of the amount of the pecuniary loss.

Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney for Criminal Mischief

If you are charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief, then contact an aggressive Houston criminal defense attorney to defend you against these serious charges. Call Rubin Law Firm, PLLC in the greater Houston area, including all surrounding areas. James Rubin is an aggressive trial lawyer that will fight for you from day one to get the best possible resolution for your case.

Give us a call today at (713) 354-4915

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