Explanation Of Criminal Mischief Under NY Criminal Law

NY criminal law divides crimes and criminal activity in several different ways. The NY Penal Code considers the severity of a crime and based on severity or substantiality, the legislature determines if such offense is a felony or misdemeanor. On the other hand, the law also considers who is harmed by specific criminal activity.

In the NY Penal Code, crimes are organized and grouped by the type of harm they cause. For example, crimes that harm another person, such as assault and murder fall under crimes against the person. Similarly, gambling and prostitution offenses fall under crimes against public health and morals. The crime criminal mischief is a crime involving the damage of property.

Even knowing how crimes are classified and arranged in NY criminal law, it can be difficult to fully understand the elements and definition of a crime. This is usually the case with criminal mischief, and many offenses related to it. So, how do you know if your actions constitute criminal mischief? As, an NY criminal law firm, we’ll explain.

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Page Contents

What Is Criminal Mischief?

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According to the NY Penal Code and written NY criminal law, criminal mischief is unlawfully damaging the property of another person. According to NY criminal law, destruction or damage of property is unlawful when the person knows or has reasonable grounds to know that he or she doesn’t have the right to change, manipulate, or damage the property. If you believed your actions were authorized or requested by the property owner, then it isn’t criminal mischief under NY criminal law.

The law further explains that damaging abandoned or vacant property is also criminal mischief, and it is also criminal mischief to dismantle communication capabilities with the intent of keeping another person from contacting emergency services or assistance. What isn’t criminal mischief under NY criminal law? Damaging your own property is specifically excluded from the crime of criminal mischief because the overarching definition states that it only applies to property of another person.

For each of these actions to constitute criminal mischief, the actor must have a specific mindset or intent when committing the crime. If you accidentally break your neighbor’s screen door during a dinner party, it isn’t criminal mischief. But if you slash your neighbor’s screen door with a knife because you weren’t invited to the dinner party, that is criminal mischief.

What Impacts The Severity Of Charges For Criminal Mischief?

What makes NY criminal law confusing is that for most crimes there aren’t just one or two offenses, but several different degrees of the crime. When it comes to criminal mischief, you can be charged with criminal mischief in the first, second, third, or fourth degree. Of these, criminal mischief in the first degree is the most serious classification of the offense.

Determining the degree of criminal mischief is based on several factors, one of which is intent. If you recklessly damage property valued over $250, it is the lowest charge of criminal mischief – criminal mischief in the fourth degree. However, if you damage property over $250 intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly then it is criminal mischief in the third degree, a more serious charge.

The other factors that determine the severity of charges for criminal mischief are: how the property damage was committed and the amount of damage caused. For example, if you use explosives to damage the property of another person, no matter the amount of damage or value of the property damaged, it is criminal mischief in the first degree. Alternatively, when the property damage amounts to costs of $1,000 or more, regardless of how the damage was caused or the actor’s intent at the time, it is criminal mischief in the second degree.

Each degree of criminal mischief is tied to a specific class of crimes under NY criminal law. These classes tell the court, NY criminal lawyer, and defendant the possible punishment and penalty for conviction of the crime. Criminal mischief in the first degree is a class B felony, the second most serious class of crime under NY criminal law, while criminal mischief in the second degree is a class D felony, a classification that allows a lower fine and lesser prison sentence.

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Need To Know More About NY Criminal Law?

Do you have other questions about criminal mischief, crimes involving damage to property, or defining criminal offenses under NY criminal law? Call Greco Neyland Attorneys at Law, and have an experienced lawyer at one of New York’s top criminal law firms provide the answer. Our office is available 24/7 by calling (212)-951-1300.

The information in this blog post (“Post”) is provided for general informational purposes only. This Post may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this Post should be construed as legal advice from Greco Neyland Attorneys at Law or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.

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About The Author

Jeffery Greco

Jeffery Greco is an attorney providing legal services covering Criminal Defense and Criminal Defense: White Collar and Criminal Defense: DUI / DWI. Jeffery Greco, who practices law in New York, New York, was selected to Super Lawyers for 2020 - 2023. This peer designation is awarded only to a select number of accomplished attorneys in each state. The Super Lawyers selection process takes into account peer recognition, professional achievement in legal practice, and other cogent factors. Prior to becoming an attorney, he studied at South Texas College of Law Houston. He graduated in 2004. After passing the bar exam, he was admitted to legal practice in 2005.

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