What is Criminal Mischief in NYC?

What is Criminal Mischief in NYC?

Criminal mischief crimes are crimes against property. Depending on how much damage has been done,  this crime may be treated either as a misdemeanor or as a felony.

The damage must be intentional, and the type of property is not relevant, whether a building, a cell phone, a car, or something else.  The damage itself can range from physically breaking an item to scratching it, to making graffiti

What are the degrees of criminal mischief?

Criminal mischief in the 4th degree is the misdemeanor classification for doing less than $250 worth of damage, or for intentionally damaging an abandoned building. 

If you damage a car, or if the damage exceeds $250, then the crime becomes a Class E felony. If it is more than $1,500,  it’s considered a Class D felony. 

If you use an explosive,  the crime becomes a Class B felony. 

There are other classifications of this crime, such as sabotage (criminal tampering), grave desecration, and tampering with consumer products, as well as littering and the unlawful posting of advertisements. 

What is the penalty for criminal mischief?

Depending on how the criminal mischief has been classified in your case, you could be facing up to one year in jail, or more serious jail time.

Does damaging a rental unit count as criminal mischief?

If the damage is excessive and can’t be explained away by normal wear-and-tear, isn’t covered by the security deposit, and looks intentional, your landlord may try to get law enforcement involved. It is possible to face criminal mischief charges when a unit has been severely damaged.

To protect yourself from such charges,  you should always inspect your unit. Take pictures of what it looked like when you took possession of it and take pictures of it when you leave. Landlords are usually more interested in saving money than in pursuing criminal charges, but you can never be too careful. 

What are the defenses for criminal mischief?

One defense is that the damage was unintentional, since unintentional damage falls outside the criminal mischief statute. If you had permission to damage the property or had ownership in the property then you can’t be convicted of this crime. This may also be a good defense to use if you had reason to believe you had the right to destroy or damage the property.

Of course, if you’re innocent, the strategy may be to prove you didn’t damage the property at all. It may also be possible to demonstrate the prosecution has insufficient evidence to convict you of this crime.

Every case is different. If you’ve been accused of this crime, contact the Law Offices of Julie Rendelman for a consultation. 

See also:


Criminal Law: What You See on TV vs. Reality


How Has Arson Evolved as a Crime in New York?


Selecting the Best Criminal Attorney for You