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New York Criminal Mischief Charges Explained

By Spodek Law Group | October 18, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 19, 2023)

Last Updated on: 19th October 2023, 07:42 pm

New York Criminal Mischief Charges Explained

Criminal mischief charges in New York State are brought when someone intentionally or recklessly damages property belonging to someone else without permission. There are four degrees of criminal mischief charges, ranging from a class A misdemeanor to a class B felony, depending on the circumstances and value of the damaged property.

Overview of Criminal Mischief Charges

The four degrees of criminal mischief charges in New York are:

  • Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree (PL 145.00) – Class A misdemeanor
  • Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree (PL 145.05) – Class E felony
  • Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree (PL 145.10) – Class D felony
  • Criminal Mischief in the First Degree (PL 145.12) – Class B felony

The main factors that determine the degree of charges are the value of the damaged property and whether explosives were used. Higher degrees are felonies, while the fourth degree is a misdemeanor.

Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree

Criminal mischief in the fourth degree, under PL 145.00, is the least serious charge. It applies when someone:

  • Intentionally damages someone else’s property, regardless of value
  • Recklessly damages property worth more than $250
  • Participates in destroying an abandoned building

For example, intentionally keying someone’s car or throwing a rock through a window could lead to fourth degree charges. It is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail.

Defenses to Criminal Mischief Charges

Some possible defenses to criminal mischief charges include:

  • Lack of intent – For fourth degree charges, if damage was accidental rather than intentional or reckless, it may not meet the requirements for criminal mischief.
  • Right to damage property – If the defendant had a legal right or reasonable belief they had a right to damage the property, it can be a defense. For example, if it was their own property.
  • Misidentification – If the defendant can show they were wrongly accused and did not actually cause the damage.
  • Intoxication – Voluntary intoxication is not a defense, but may be argued to show lack of intent. Involuntary intoxication may provide a defense by negating intent.
  • Mental illness – In some cases, mental illness may be argued to negate the intent required for criminal mischief.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate the available defenses based on the specific circumstances of the allegations.

Penalties for Criminal Mischief Convictions

The potential penalties for a criminal mischief conviction depend on the degree of charges:

Fourth Degree

Up to 1 year in jail and/or probation up to 3 years. Restitution for property damage may also be required.

Third Degree

1 to 4 years in prison, though first-time offenders often receive probation instead of jail. Fines and restitution are also common penalties.

Second Degree

1 to 7 years in prison. Probation or split sentences are also possible for some first-time offenders. Fines and restitution are common additional penalties.

First Degree

Mandatory minimum 1-3 years in prison, up to a maximum of 8 to 25 years. Substantial fines and restitution are also likely penalties.

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