Criminal Mischief Defense Attorney in Des Moines
Serving Clients throughout Polk County
Criminal mischief is a serious crime. Generally, criminal mischief means that you intentionally ruined another person's property without their permission or any legal justification. Criminal mischief can be accomplished in many different ways, and all the state needs to prove is that you intentionally damaged another person's property and the value of that property.
If you have been charged with criminal mischief, it is a good idea to hire a criminal defense attorney to fight for you at trial and/or mitigate the circumstances for you. It can make a significant difference in your case. At Feld Law Firm, we offer aggressive defense and effective strategies to help improve your situation and obtain a favorable result on your behalf.
Contact us now to get started with a free consultation – call (515) 996-4441.
What Is Criminal Mischief?
Criminal mischief is legally defined as intentionally defacing, altering, or destructing property with no right to do so. In other words, one could consider it vandalism.
Common examples of criminal mischief are activities including keying cars, egging houses or cars, slashing tires, breaking gravestones, and filling locks with glue. It can also include other acts of vandalism that have to do with revenge or disputes. More examples include:
Throwing rocks through car or house windows
Spray-painting buildings or cars
Filling gas tanks with sugar
What Is the Charge of Slashing Tires?
The charge for slashing tires would be considered criminal mischief. If the damages were $1,000 or more, then it is a felony, anything under that is a misdemeanor. Most tire changes are a few hundred dollars so it should be charged as criminal mischief.
Defining Value & Intent in Criminal Mischief Cases
A fair amount of criminal mischief charges can end up in trial because there is a dispute regarding the value of property that was intentionally damaged, not that the property was damaged. Another issue that can arise is who actually damaged the property, whether someone actually had permission to damage the property, or whether that person aided and abetted the person who damaged the property. An example of where someone would have permission to intentionally damage someone else's property would be if there is a contract in place – such as to fix the person's deck or driveway.
The value of the property damaged is key to determining whether you will be charged with a misdemeanor or felony –sometimes, it can come down to a $1 difference. In regard to the "intent" element of criminal mischief, simply driving another person's vehicle and accidentally running a stop sign and getting into a crash is not criminal mischief. This is because the person did not intentionally crash the person's car.
Degrees of Criminal Mischief
In Iowa, there are five “levels” or degrees of criminal mischief. Essentially, the levels of the charges are determined by the amount of damage you caused to the other party.
Criminal mischief in the first degree, which has the most severe punishment, is defined as criminal mischief causing more than $10,000 in damage or if the mischief causes a substantial disruption in service rendered to the public. For example, damage done to electric, gas, or water corporations could be considered first-degree criminal mischief. This is considered a class C felony and punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of no more than $13,660.
It should be noted that a person will lose their gun and voting rights should they be convicted of felony criminal mischief. Also, if convicted, the defendant will be required to pay back restitution (the amount of damaged caused to the property).
Criminal mischief in the second degree is when the mischief causes more than $1,500 in damage but less than $10,000 in damage. This is a class D felony and punishable by up to five years and a $10,245 fine. The minimum fine for the D felony is $1,025 in addition to a 15% surcharge and court costs.
Criminal mischief in the third degree, which is an aggravated misdemeanor and punishable by up to two years in prison and a $8,540 fine, occurs when:
- The cost of the damaged property is greater than $750 but less than $1,500 in value
- The damaged property is a deed, will, or commercial paper or other instrument having legal effect
- Causing damage to an object that has the purpose of giving notice or enclosing any unsafe place or condition
- The person digs up human remains from a burial site without lawful authority
Criminal mischief in the fourth degree is a serious misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,560 fine plus 15% surcharge and $100 court costs. It is defined as causing damage of more than $300 but less than $750.
Criminal mischief in the fifth degree is a simple misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $855 fine plus a 15% surcharge and $60 court costs. It is defined as causing damage to property less than $300 or any criminal mischief that does not fall under any other classification.
Penalties for Criminal Mischief
When convicted of any level of criminal mischief, you will almost always have to pay restitution to the victim in the case. If you are convicted of one of the higher levels of criminal mischief, you will likely be placed on probation. A deferred judgment is allowed if the defendant is eligible.
If you are convicted of criminal mischief, you will likely have to pay for the property that you damaged in addition to the court-ordered fines. This is called restitution. Sometimes paying off the restitution before a sentence is entered can be part of a plea agreement. By paying off the restitution before sentencing, it shows that the harmed party is made whole and that the defendant is taking the charge seriously. This can sometimes encourage the court to give the defendant a lighter sentence.
Call Feld Law Firm Now
If you have been charged with criminal mischief, you should seek a Des Moines criminal defense attorney to represent your best interests in the matter. You have a lot at stake – our attorney can advise you on how to proceed with this charge in addition to finding holes in the state's case to help you get a better plea deal or win at trial. We can also help you fight the restitution the state is requesting in the matter and can usually help you get a better deal should the evidence be stacked against you.
If you have any questions, concerns, or would like to set up a free consultation, call our Des Moines criminal mischief defense attorney at (515) 996-4441.
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