Long Island Criminal Mischief Defense Lawyer
What is Criminal Mischief?
Despite its mild-sounding name, Criminal Mischief is not a crime that the state of New York takes lightly. Even the lowest level Criminal Mischief offense is considered a class A misdemeanor, while the most serious is a class B felony that could lead to as many as 25 years in state prison. Unlike many crimes, Criminal Mischief gives no indication of its meaning in its title, so if you or a loved one has been charged with the offense, you may find yourself wondering just what it means according to the state and just what it could mean for the future of the person accused.
What are the Tiers of Criminal Mischief?
Almost all major crimes in New York operate on a tiered system, with the most serious variation of the crime labeled as the “first degree” of that crime, while the lesser offenses under the statute are labeled as the second, third, fourth, etc. Criminal Mischief is no different than other crimes in this respect. As the actions involved in the crime become more serious, so do the crime and the potential penalties.
Fourth Degree Criminal Mischief
A person may be accused of committing criminal mischief in the fourth degree for damaging the property of another or destroying an abandoned building. Even if the damage was not intentional, if the total damage exceeds more than $250.00, a person may be charged for recklessly damaging the property of another person. This tier also applies when a victim is seeking emergency assistance and the person charged disables or removes the equipment to communicate with emergency responders or other third parties who would assist; for instance, a person could be charged for cutting phone lines or destroying a computer.
This is not an act that can be done accidentally. The person charged must have no right to damage the property at the time the act was committed or have no reasonable ground to believe that he or she has that right. If a person has paid for property and does not know that the person selling the property had no right to sell it, that person may have a reasonable ground to believe he or she owns the property and has the right to damage or destroy it. In that situation, the person would not have committed Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree.
Fourth Degree Criminal Mischief is a class A misdemeanor, and carries a potential jail sentence of up to one year.
Third Degree Criminal Mischief
Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree carries its own specific set of circumstances. As with Fourth Degree Criminal Mischief, this tier requires having no right to commit these acts and no reasonable grounds to believe that he or she has that right to do them. A person may be charged merely for damaging the property of another where the damage totals more than $250.00.
A person may also be charged under a very specific set of circumstances: The person must damage the motor vehicle of another person by breaking into the vehicle when it is locked with the intention of stealing property. However, the person must have also been convicted three or more times for criminal mischief; the previous criminal mischief charges may be first, second, third or fourth degree variants of the charge.
This crime is a class E felony and carries a potential penalty of up to four years years in prison.
Second Degree Criminal Mischief
Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree applies when the damage done to a property is more than $1,500.00. Once again, there must be intent to damage the property but no right to do so. This is a class D felony and carries a potential penalty of up to seven years in prison.
First Degree Criminal Mischief
The most serious of the Criminal Mischief crimes, Criminal Mischief in the First Degree applies when the person charged causes damage with the use of an explosive. Unlike the other tiers, there is no limitation on the amount of damage done. Even if the explosive destroys part of the property valued at very little, First Degree Criminal Mischief still applies.
Because of the seriousness of this crime, it is considered a class B felony, and it carries a potential penalty of up to 25 years in prison.
What are Other Related Crimes?
Though some crimes are not given the label of Criminal Mischief, a person may be charged with a crime that involves very similar criminal acts. These include Criminal Tampering, Cemetery Desecration, and Reckless Endangerment of Property.
Second Degree Criminal Tampering
Criminal Tampering is very similar to Criminal Mischief, but instead of the property belonging to another, the property is one belonging to a public utility. Second Degree Criminal Tampering applies where the person has no belief he or she has any right to tamper or make connection with the utility, but is not doing so for an unlawful purpose. This class A misdemeanor may be committed unintentionally, but it could still lead to up to one year in jail.
First Degree Criminal Tampering
Criminal Tampering in the First degree applies where a person has intent to cause interruption or impairment to a service and causes substantial interruption or impairment. A person who intentionally damages a phone line, for instance, could be charged with this crime. First Degree Criminal Tampering is a class D felony and carries a possible penalty of up to seven years in prison.
Second Degree Cemetery Desecration
A person may commit Cemetery Desecration in the Second Degree in two ways. A person may be charged with the crime if the person has the intent to damage property of another person and has no right to do so and damages any real or personal property used as a cemetery plot or burial place for human remains. A person may also commit this crime if the person steals property located at a cemetery plot, grave or burial place.
First Degree Cemetery Desecration
Similar to Second Degree Cemetery Desecration, a person may be charged with Cemetery Desecration in the First Degree for damaging real property used as a cemetery plot or grave and the damage is more than $250.00 in value. The person may also be charged if the theft of personal property from the cemetery plot or burial place is more than $250.00. Repeat offenders of Second Degree Cemetery Desecration may also be charged with this crime, if that person had previously committed the second degree crime in the last five years.
This is a class E felony, and being convicted of this crime could lead to as many as four years in prison.
Second Degree Aggravated Cemetery Desecration
A person may be charged with the Aggravated version of Second Degree Cemetery Desecration for opening a casket, crypt or other vessel that holds human remains in a cemetery and removes a body or body part from the vessel. Like First Degree Cemetery Desecration, Aggravated Cemetery Desecration in the Second Degree is a class E felony with a potential punishment of four years in prison.
First Degree Aggravated Cemetery Desecration
Repeat offenders may find themselves faced with Aggravated Cemetery Desecration in the First Degree if they commit an aggravated cemetery desecration and have previously been convicted of any cemetery desecration crimes in the last five years. This crime is a class D felony and carries a potential prison sentence of seven years in prison.
Second Degree Tampering with a Consumer Product
If a person has been charged with Tampering with a Consumer Product in the Second Degree, the first question will typically be, “what is a consumer product?” A consumer product is something sold to the public that is intended for the purposes of going in or on the human body. This would include food, medicine, lotion, etc.
A person may be charged with tampering with a consumer product if the person either alters or contaminates a consumer product with the intent to cause physical injury. A person may also be charged if the intent is simply to instill fear of physical injury. Like Criminal Mischief crimes, if the person believes he or she has the right to make the alteration, that person cannot be charged. Also, a person cannot be charged for making an alteration for his or her own purposes, only if there is intent to scare or harm another.
This class A misdemeanor carries a potential penalty of up to one year in jail.
First Degree Tampering with a Consumer Product
The facts and circumstances for Tampering with a Consumer Product in the First Degree are very similar. The key difference is that the alteration or adulteration of the product must create a substantial risk of serious physical injury. This is a class E felony, and may accompany other charges depending on what affects the alteration has had on individuals who used the product. As a class E felony, this crime carries a potential prison sentence of up to four years in prison.
How Important is Intent?
For many of these crimes, the intent and knowledge of the person charged is very important. If, at the time the incident took place, the person had a reasonable belief that he or she had the right to make the changes to the property, a key factor of many of the criminal mischief crimes is missing. Another important difference between the types of charges is whether the person intended to cause harm and what type. Whether the difference is between “guilty” and “not guilty” or a misdemeanor and a felony, intent and knowledge are vital.
What Are the Consequences?
Beyond potential fines and prison time, a person charged with criminal mischief could find other areas of his or her life affected by the charge. Some employers are reluctant to hire and/or retain employees with a criminal record. Should a person be charged of a second crime, having a prior criminal record can also impact the possible sentencing for the second offense, leading to a harsher punishment.
If you have been arrested for criminal mischief in Nassau, Suffolk or Queens County, call Scott J. Limmer without delay
You can contact Scott by phone at 516-742-2300 to speak to him immediately. He is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round and your initial consultation is free.
Nassau County Criminal Law Office
200 Old Country Road Suite 2 S Mineola, NY 11501 Telephone: 516-742-2300
Queens County Criminal Law Office
80-02 Kew Gardens Road Suite 300 Kew Gardens, NY 11415 Telephone: 718-742-6300