If someone keys your car, spray paints your home, or damages a structure on your property, you may have already filed a claim with the insurance company. However, just because you can get the money to fix the damage—it does not excuse the perpetrator from his actions. Many property owners don’t realize that the perpetrators can pay stiff fines—or even go to jail—for any damage or vandalism they have done to your property.
Under Texas law, willful destruction of any property is a crime, and can be charged under a doctrine called criminal mischief. In order to file criminal mischief charges, you must be able to show that the person responsible for the damage:
- Was aware that they had damaged someone else’s property (either intentionally or accidentally).
- Knowingly caused a loss or inconvenience by tampering with someone else’s property.
- Intentionally left drawings, graffiti, or markings on someone else’s property without permission.
What Can Happen to Someone Accused of Criminal Mischief?
The penalties for criminal mischief will depend on the value of the property loss, the extent of the damage, and other circumstances surrounding the offense. Potential punishments for damage include:
- Misdemeanor charges. Criminal mischief may be a misdemeanor if the damage resulted in a repair or replacement cost of between $50 and $1,500. Fines in misdemeanor cases can range from $500 to $4,000 depending on the offense, and in serious cases, perpetrators can spend between 180 to 360 days in jail. Higher penalties are imposed if the misdemeanor caused an impairment or interruption of public services or utilities.
- State jail felonies. Texas has a special consideration for offenders who cause damage to a home by fire or explosion, tamper with a fence that is designed to keep livestock or other animals restrained, or if the damaged is valued between $1,500 and $20,000. If convicted, offenders can face up to two years in state jail and pay fines up to $10,000.
- Felony offenses. Felony criminal mischief offenses occur when the property damage is $20,000 or greater. Offenders can serve anywhere from 2 to 99 years in prison and pay fines up to $10,000.
If someone caused a significant amount of damage or loss to your property, we can help you get the full amount of compensation you deserve. Call Wayne Wright LLP today at 800-237-3334 or fill out a contact form to set up a free case evaluation so we can answer all of your legal questions.