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New York Penal Law 145.12: Criminal Mischief in the First Degree

By Spodek Law Group | May 3, 2017
(Last Updated On: July 26, 2023)

Last Updated on: 26th July 2023, 08:56 pm

According to the New York Penal Code, criminal mischief is a crime that involves intentionally damaging property owned by someone else, without the owner’s permission. This crime commonly is referred to as vandalism.

Elements of Criminal Mischief in the First Degree

There are four different criminal mischief offenses on the books in New York, the most serious being criminal mischief in the first degree. Criminal mischief in the first degree is classified as a class B felony. A person can be charged with criminal mischief in the first degree if he or she damages the property of another person using an explosive. A charge of criminal mischief in the first degree is possible if the person that perpetrated the explosion is a co-owner of the property.

Keep in mind that, depending on the overall impact of an explosion, a person who caused the explosion in the first instance may be charged with other crimes in addition to criminal mischief in the first degree.

Examples of Criminal Mischief in the First Degree

An example of criminal mischief in the first degree could arise from a situation in which a person blows up an automobile owned by someone else. Similarly, a charge of criminal mischief in the first degree could be made if a person causes an explosion in a store or other type of commercial structure.

Sentence for Criminal Mischief in the First Degree

The state of New York takes the crime of criminal mischief in the first degree very seriously. The serious nature of the crime resulted in its classification as a class B felony.

A person convicted of criminal mischief in the first degree can face a prison term of up to 25 years. In addition, a court could order a significant fine. A person convicted of this crime is likely to face a restitution order as well.

If a person has a more extensive criminal history, the sentence in a criminal mischief in the first degree case is likely to be longer. On the other hand, a person with a more moderate criminal history is likely to avoid an extended term of incarceration in a criminal mischief in the first degree case.

Defenses to Criminal Mischief in the First Degree

There exist a number of defenses to criminal mischief in the first degree. The law requires that the explosion and resulting property damage be intentional.

A possible defense to criminal mischief in the first degree is that the damage caused to someone else’s property as a result of an explosion was unintentional. Although this might permit a person to avoid conviction for criminal mischief in the first degree, he or she may face being charged with, and convicted for, another crime.

Another defense to a charge of criminal mischief in the first degree is the contention that the owner of the property gave permission for the activity that resulted in the explosion and damage.

Experienced nyc criminal attorneys can provide solid representation in cases involving criminal mischief if the first degree. A person facing this type of charge is wise retaining legal representation sooner, rather than later.

The first step in hiring a lawyer in a criminal mischief in the first degree case is scheduling what is known as an initial consultation. At an initial consultation, an attorney provides a prospective client and overview of the case. The attorney will also provide answers to any questions a person may have about a charge of criminal mischief in the first degree. There usually is no attorney fee charged for an initial consultation with attorney to discuss a specific case.

New York Penal Law 145.10: Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree

Criminal mischief in the second degree is a serious crime defined along the terms of vandalism. In New York, it’s defined as a Class D felony, which could result in a significant prison sentence for anyone who is found guilty. Up to seven years spent in a state prison per offense and fines that meet or exceed the amount of damage done during the crime is what guilty parties face when they engage in criminal mischief. The New York penal code describing criminal mischief in the second degree describes it as a person’s intent to cause damage to the property of another person, but only if the damage exceeds $1,500.

When a home or business owners accuses a person of criminal mischief in the second degree, it can mean a long trial, a court case, and a prison sentence in addition to restitution if the defendant is found guilty. It’s not a small crime to commit when the damage exceeds such a significant amount, which is why many people are unwilling to ignore the damage without also pressing charges against the person who commits the crime in New York. It’s why defendants must have a NYC criminal lawyer to help them with their case.

Examples of Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree

Accidents happen all the time, and they are often easy to prove. A person who swerves their bike on a path to avoid hitting a child who runs out in front of them and ends up going through the window of a store instead probably had no intention of going through the window. The damage caused was entirely accident, and there was no malicious intent. If the person who goes through the window of a store does so specifically to break the window and cause harm to those who are inside the store as a point of revenge against those who upset him inside is doing so with intent.

This means the person inside the store is going to press charges and possibly ask that a court of law charge the at-fault party with criminal mischief in the second degree. This kind of accusation is easy to prove, and most people who are accused of this crime had the malicious intent to cause harm. As with any other criminal behavior, though, there is always a chance the defendant is innocent and it must be proven this is true when a trial occurs.


If a person accused of criminal mischief in the second degree has a defense, a good attorney can help bring it to light. One of the most common defenses against this crime is the lack of intent. If the damage can be proven accidental rather than malicious, the case can be dropped and charges will not be brought onto the defendant. However, if there was intent, such as a fight, a viable threat, or even a social media post by the person who caused the damage that they might do something to get someone back, malicious intent is evident.

The second most common defense is the amount of damage caused. If it does not exceed $1,500, the person who cause the damage is no longer going to be held liable for the issue. There is a lack of criminal activity in this case, which means no one will be charged with criminal mischief in any form. An experienced attorney can help anyone accused of criminal mischief in the second degree form their defense to either minimize or eliminate the risk of legal punishment. The best defense in a case like this is a good counsel.

New York Penal Law 145.05: Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree

New York Penal Law 145.05 is the act of criminal mischief in the third degree. What this means is the simple act of lawfully committing the act of vandalism. Anyone who defiles, destroys, or damages another person’s property without the permission of the property owner is considered guilty of criminal mischief in a court of law if the evidence proves it. In New York, criminal mischief in the third degree is a Class E felony with a potential punishment of up to four years in prison or five years of probation. Restitution can be added to either sentence as an additional punishment for anyone found guilty of criminal mischief in the third degree.

Being accused of criminal mischief in the third degree means you must be guilty of at least one of the following in the state of New York:

– You intentionally cause damage to the property of someone else without permission
– Damage property of another person in excess of $250

Being found guilty of these crimes could result in a minor form of restitution, but it all depends on what the accuser decides is a necessary punishment for the person guilty. The accuser has the ability to ask for a harsher punishment for anyone who is willing to commit such a crime against their property.

Examples of Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree

Criminal mischief in the third degree is not the most serious offense of this nature, but it’s not the least serious. It’s still a problem for many people that might end up costing guilty parties years of their lives. a scorned man or woman upset because their significant other left them or cheated might be guilty of criminal mischief in the third degree if they decide they want to slash their tires or even break their favorite household item in the midst of a fight.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a couple in the midst of a fight who ends up causing damage might not intend to cause damage. A man who slashes the tires of his wife’s car following a fight because he wants to upset her could be guilty of criminal mischief in the third degree. A woman who wants to get out of the house following a bad argument might take her husband’s car if it’s parked behind hers and end up in a minor fender bender because she’s crying and has a difficult time seeing the road in front of her. She didn’t intend to cause damage to his vehicle, so he’d have to prove this was her intent.


Anyone who is accused of criminal mischief in the third degree will find the burden of proof falls on the prosecutor. The best defense is an NYC criminal attorney with ample experience in the courtroom. If it can be proven your actions were unintentional, it can be proven you are not guilty of criminal mischief in the third degree. The other defense for this type of accusation is that the damage is not in excess of $250. If it is minor, most people will take a payout or settlement rather than ask for probation or jail time of the person who committed the crime.

Criminal mischief in the third degree must be intentional to be considered a crime, but it’s all about the evidence and the burden of proof the prosecutor has. An attorneys job is to help the defendant navigate these muddy waters to find a defense that will work in a court of law. It’s possible if the burden of proof is not there.

New York Penal Law 145.00: Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree

Property damage is the central focus of offenses classified as criminal mischief in the state of New York. Individuals that are found guilty of damaging the property of another entity could be eligible for punishment under New York Penal Law 145. Another term that is used to define criminal mischief is vandalism, and it’s classified in four different degrees. The least severe cases of criminal mischief fall under the fourth degree and may include the following acts:

A. Purposely causing any amount of physical damage to the property of another person.
B. Taking part in an act of vandalism in regards to an abandoned building.
C. Causing damage to the property of another person, by an act of recklessness, in an amount that exceeds $250.

Example 1
There is a small party at the home of an individual named George. Toward the end of the night, an intoxicated party-goer blindly throws an empty glass bottle in the direction of a trash can. It misses the receptacle and breaks through a nearby window, causing it to shatter. Under these circumstances, the guest that threw the bottle could be prosecuted for criminal mischief in the fourth degree due to reckless behavior. Although the original intention may not have been to cause damage to the window, the careless actions are punishable by law.

Example 2
A group of teenagers decide to vandalize an abandoned building by busting out the windows and spray painting graffiti on the walls. Although there may not be a clear owner to the property in question, the actions are punishable by New York law. Each participant could face a charge of criminal mischief, with varying penalties dependent on the severity of the intentional destruction.

Penalties Under New York penal law 145
An individual that is found guilty of criminal mischief in the fourth degree could face a class A misdemeanor charge. The conviction may include up to a full year in jail, up to 3 years of probation, restitution payments, and the payment of an initial fine. Punishment in these cases often depends on the value of damage and an evaluation of the unique circumstances of the crime.

Defenses to Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree
A criminal mischief charge requires proof that there was an intentional or reckless action that caused the property damage to occur. The best defense against criminal mischief in the fourth degree relies on the belief that the actions were accidental, rather than reckless or intentionally destructive. A defendant that caused accidental damage would not technically meet the basic legal requirements for the charges of criminal mischief. Every case is different, and an experienced attorney is the best resource in constructing a defense against the criminal mischief charges.

Get in Touch With a Caring NYC criminal lawyer
Our team of lawyers urge anyone facing charges of criminal mischief in the fourth degree to get help as soon as possible. Although misdemeanor charges aren’t as severe as a felony conviction, it’s essential to have a reliable attorney on your side preparing the absolute best defense. Regardless of the mistakes you have made in the past, we are dedicated to reducing the impact that such actions could have on your future. Not only do we offer judgement-free representation, but we’ll work tirelessly toward the goal of having charges reduced or dismissed to the best of our ability.

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