Criminal Mischief Defense Lawyer serving Fort Worth and surrounding cities
Are you or someone you know facing a criminal mischief charge in Fort Worth, Arlington or a surrounding city in Tarrant County, Texas? If so, you need an experienced criminal mischief lawyer who can effectively defend you.
If you have been charged with criminal mischief in the Fort Worth area, it is likely that you are facing charges that, if convicted, could result in life changing circumstances. Your freedom is at risk! It is critical that you hire an attorney in Fort Worth that specializes in criminal defense and has a proven track record of obtaining favorable results for citizens wrongfully charged with a crime.
What Is Considered Criminal Mischief In Texas?
Before we cover possible legal defenses and other important considerations, we need to identify what Texas criminal law defines as the elements of the crime of criminal mischief.
Texas Penal Code §28.03 states that a person commits the offense of Criminal Mischief if without the effective consent of the owner:
- he intentionally or knowingly damages or destroys the tangible property of the owner;
- he intentionally or knowingly tampers with the tangible property of the owner and causes pecuniary loss or substantial inconvenience to the owner or a third person; or
- he intentionally or knowingly makes markings, including inscriptions, slogans, drawings, or paintings, on the tangible property of the owner.
Common examples of criminal mischief include:
- Breaking car windows, “keying” a car or causing dents or other damage to a vehicle
- Spray painting or damaging property
- Destroying school property as a prank
- Damaging walls, fencing or other attached items to a home or business
What Is The Penalty For Criminal Mischief In Texas?
The punishment range for the crime of criminal mischief in Texas is dependent upon the amount of pecuniary loss. The more monetary loss is sustained as a result of the damage or destruction, the more serious the criminal punishment under the law.
Criminal Mischief Under $100: Class C Misdemeanor
If the value of the items damaged or destroyed is less than $100 in value, the penalty is a Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by a fine only of up to $500 and no possibility of jail time. However, be careful! The temptation is to believe that this is an inconsequential charge and not worth fighting. If you pay the fine before the court, you will be convicted of the charge, and it will be treated as a plea of guilty. As such, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney to explore your options with fighting the case.
Criminal Mischief $100 to $750: Class B Misdemeanor
If the value of the property damaged or destroyed is more than $100 but less than $750 in value, the penalty is a Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by a term in the Tarrant County jail of up to 180 days and up to a $2,000 fine.
Criminal Mischief $750 to $2,500: Class A Misdemeanor
If the value of the property damaged or destroyed is more than $750 but less than $2,500 in value, the penalty is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by a term in the Tarrant County jail of up to 1 year and up to a $4,000 fine.
Criminal Mischief $2,500 to $30,000: State Jail Felony
If the value of the property damage or destruction of the property is determined to be more than $2,500 but less than $30,000, the penalty will be a State Jail Felony. A State Jail Felony is the lowest level of felony in Texas and carries with it a punishment range of not less than 180 days but not more than 2 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Criminal Mischief $30,000 to $150,000: Third degree Felony
If the value of the property damaged or destroyed is more than $30,000 but less than $150,000, the crime will be classified as a third-degree felony. Third degree felonies are punishable by a term in prison of not less than 2 years but not more than 10 years and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Criminal Mischief $150,000 to $300,000: Second degree Felony
If the value of the property damaged or destroyed is more than $150,000 but less than $300,000, the criminal mischief charge will be a second-degree felony. A second-degree felony is punishable by a term in prison of not less than 2 years but not more than 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Criminal Mischief over $300,000: First degree Felony
Finally, if the prosecutor is able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the property damaged or destroyed was valued at more than $300,000, the criminal mischief will be a first-degree felony. First degree felonies are the most serious felony charge under Texas criminal law, punishable by a term in prison of not less than 5 years and up to Life in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Other Consequences Associated With A Criminal Mischief Conviction
In addition to possible prison or jail time and large fines, you could be facing other consequences many people do not immediately think about. If you are convicted of felony criminal mischief, you would no longer be able to legally possess or purchase a firearm or work in the private security industry. A criminal mischief conviction can result in a limitation of eligibility for student loans, government employment or government assistance. A criminal mischief conviction can also create serious immigration consequences if a non-citizen is seeking a green card, seeking to become a naturalized citizen or maintain immigration status. Additionally, because criminal mischief is seen as both a crime of potential violence and theft, many employers will refuse employment to a prospective employee because of the stigma associated with the crime.
Criminal Defenses To Criminal Mischief In Texas
Being arrested and charged with criminal mischief is a serious matter that requires making the right choices regarding who to partner with as your criminal defense attorney to defend your case. In addition to retaining the best criminal attorney in Fort Worth, Texas, you must also research and become familiar with the possible criminal defenses available to you as you fight your case.
Criminal Intent Can Not Be Proven
According to the elements of the crime of criminal mischief, the State of Texas must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted intentionally or knowingly in damaging the alleged victim’s property. When we refer to “intentionally,” we are saying that it must be proven that you acted with the specific intent or goal to cause the damage to the property. When we refer to “knowingly,” we are saying that it must be proven that you were aware of the consequences of your actions at the time of the behavior.
What if you acted recklessly or negligently? What if the damage inflicted to the property was accidental? We have represented many clients that were accused of criminal mischief for actions that were accidental or negligent. Accidental or negligent actions, by themselves, are not sufficient to establish the crime of criminal mischief.
For example, we represented a client that was charged with felony criminal mischief for damage that occurred to the alleged victim’s car. The client had been unloading items from his vehicle at a local home improvement store and in the process of doing so, broke a window and dented the door of the car. The client was attempting to unload a propane canister from the back of his SUV when it caused wood and other heavy items to spill out and hit the alleged victim’s vehicle. The alleged victim became furious, call the police, and alleged that our client acted intentionally or knowingly in his behavior. Was this criminal mischief? NO! The alleged victim definitely had a right to be compensated for the damage in civil court, but the client did not act with the required criminal intent necessary to establish the crime of criminal mischief.
Value Can Not Be Proven
The primary distinction that determine whether a criminal mischief is filed as a misdemeanor or felony is the value of the damage. How does the prosecutor prove “value” in a criminal trial? Technically, the prosecutor could rely upon the alleged victim’s word as to the value of the damage. However, the value of the damage must be objectively established by a professional estimate.
Far too often, the prosecutors and detectives do not require the alleged victim to provide a professional estimate of the damage. We have seen many criminal mischief cases where the alleged victim sends over an excel spreadsheet or a typed statement claiming the damages without any substantiation. Your criminal defense attorney should challenge this valuation by retaining a professional to determine the value of the damage and the repairs necessary. Remember, the accused has no burden to prove anything during a criminal case. The burden of proof remains on the State of Texas at all times, and they must prove the element of “value” beyond a reasonable doubt.
For example: we had a client that was charged with criminal mischief based upon a damage claim that the rims of the vehicle were worth $3,500. However, this claim of value was based solely upon the alleged victim’s word with nothing to back it up. As a result, we did our own independent research with a dealer that specialized in high-end car rims and received a professional estimate placing the value of the used rims at $750. This was a critical point of our defense because it allowed the criminal mischief charge to be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor charge. Never assume that the valuation provided in your police reports are accurate!
Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been arrested and charged with criminal mischief in Fort Worth, Arlington or in Tarrant and surrounding counties, you need a skilled Fort Worth criminal lawyer. A criminal mischief conviction could carry with it the possibility of jail time. At Fulgham Law Firm P.C. our goal is to prevent jail time and to help you clear your record.
If you choose to partner with the Fulgham Law Firm, you will have the opportunity to collaborate with a team of former prosecutors with over 80 years of legal experience and over 500 criminal jury trials in Fort Worth, Tarrant County and other courts in North Texas. You owe it to yourself and your future to hire the best criminal defense attorneys in Fort Worth, Texas. Protect your future! Protect your freedom!
Call us right now to get help.
We have helped hundreds of people in Texas, and we can help you too. We will set you up with a free conversation with Mr. Fulgham which will help you know what to do next. The Fulgham Law Firm serves Fort Worth and Tarrant county areas.