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NY Penal Law Article 145 Criminal Mischief

By Spodek Law Group | June 7, 2016
(Last Updated On: July 27, 2023)

Last Updated on: 27th July 2023, 04:34 pm

In our ongoing series of articles on New York penal law, we’ve given you a more direct look at how the law works, without all of the dry legalese you’d expect from reading up on things like this. In today’s post, we’re going to take a look at what the law says about criminal mischief and tampering. Let’s start off with criminal mischief in the fourth degree.

Criminal mischief in the fourth degree.

In order to be guilty of this crime, you’d have to intentionally damage someone else’s property or somehow participate in destroying an abandoned building. You could also recklessly damage someone else’s property in an amount that’s greater than $250. Criminal mischief in the fourth degree is considered a class A misdemeanor.

Criminal mischief in the third degree.

If you damage the property of someone in a total amount that’s greater than $250, and you had the intention to do this damage, you’re guilty of criminal mischief in the third degree. This one is a class E felony.

Criminal mischief in the second degree.

Now we’re getting into more serious territory. If you go ahead and damage someone’s property in a total amount that’s greater than $1,500, you’re guilty of this crime, and will be looking at a class D felony.

Criminal mischief in the first degree.

The most serious offense under criminal mischief is when you damage someone else’s property by using an explosive device. This particular crime will have you looking at a class B felony.


For the purpose of being clear about all of this, the term “property of another” basically includes all of the property that someone has ownership of, whether or not the person who damages the property also has an ownership interest in the property.

Criminal tampering in the third degree.

To be guilty of the least serious offense of criminal tampering, you’d have to tamper with someone else’s property while intending to cause inconvenience to either that person or someone else. Again, intent to do the tampering is key here. This one’s a class B misdemeanor.

Criminal tampering in the second degree.

For the second degree of criminal tampering, this corresponds to tampering with the connection for gas, electric, or other kinds of utilities. There is an affirmative defense for this, however. That involves you not engaging in this behavior for the purpose of larceny, or any other kind of wrong purpose. This crime is a class A misdemeanor.

Criminal tampering in the first degree.

Now the first degree of criminal tampering is when you tamper with one of those utilities we talked about, and then cause a great deal of impairment of the service. This crime is thought to be a class D felony.

Cemetery desecration in the second degree.

We’re now shifting from tampering over to cemetery desecration. You’d be guilty of this crime if you damage any property that’s been maintained as some sort of plot or grave in a cemetery, with the intent to do so. This is a class A misdemeanor.

Cemetery desecration in the first degree.

The most serious level of cemetery desecration is when you damage a burial plot or grave in a total amount that’s greater than $250. This bumps you up into a class E felony.

Reckless endangerment of property.

If you recklessly engage in some kind of conduct that creates a high risk of damage to someone else’s property in a total amount that’s greater than $250, you’ve committed reckless endangerment of property. This is a class B misdemeanor.

Aggravated cemetery desecration in the second degree.

Jumping back to cemetery desecration, this is when you open a casket or some other type of vessel that holds a corpse and then remove some part of the remains. Aggravated cemetery desecration in the second degree is a class E felony.

Aggravated cemetery desecration in the first degree.

As you might’ve guessed, this more serious offense involves committing that last crime we talked about, but then also having been convicted for the same crime in the last five years, or this crime. Aggravated cemetery desecration in the first degree is considered a class D felony.

Unlawfully posting advertisements.

If you post, paint, or in some other way set up an ad on someone else’s property, you’re guilty of this particular crime and will be receiving a violation.

Tampering with a consumer product; consumer product defined.

As for definitions, consumer product basically means any food, beverage, or other similar thing that’s offered for sale, as well as human consumption.

Tampering with a consumer product in the second degree.

When you alter or adulterate some kind of consumer property with the intention of causing damage or causing fear that you’ll cause this damage, you’re guilty of this crime and will be facing a class A misdemeanor.

Tampering with a consumer product in the first degree.

Same thing for this crime, but it’s got the added element of creating a substantial risk of some sort of serious injury to one or more people. This one is a class E felony.

Penalties for littering on railroad tracks and rights-of-way.

For the purpose of this section, you can’t dump, throw, or otherwise deposit garbage on railroad tracks. Of course, depositing some sort of salt or sand to improve traction on roads isn’t a problem at all, and isn’t considered dumping.

Making graffiti.

Graffiti is when you etch, paint, or otherwise cover a surface on public property with a mark that damages this property. If you do this without getting the permission of the owner, you’re committing a class A misdemeanor.

Possession of graffiti instruments.

You’re guilty of this crime when you possess some sort of tool or instrument that’s used to make graffiti as we defined it in the last section. This is a class B misdemeanor.

Criminal possession of a taximeter accelerating device.

A taximeter basically means a device that automatically calculates a charge for driving people where they need to go. A taximeter accelerating device is a device like this that increases the charge past the maximum that’s allowed under the law. This one is a class A misdemeanor.

New York penal law outlines several varying degrees of criminal mischief and tampering with property. The degree of the offense is typically associated with the intent and the total amount of damage caused. For instance, criminal mischief in the fourth degree involves intentionally or recklessly causing property damage over $250, while in the first degree, this involves the use of an explosive device. Criminal tampering, on the other hand, involves interfering with someone else’s property, utility connections, or burial plots. The law also considers making and possessing graffiti instruments and tampering with taximeter devices as criminal offenses.

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