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Don’t Let the Name Fool You: “Mischief” is a Serious Criminal Offense

When you hear the word “mischief,” you may think of minor pranks or kids getting into innocuous and harmless trouble. Webster’s Dictionary defines “mischief” as “behavior or activity that is annoying but that is not meant to cause serious harm or damage.”

In the Indiana Criminal Code however, “mischief” refers to a number of activities that constitute serious criminal offenses with stiff punishments. Far from harmless, these crimes involve serious damage to others’ property, and a conviction for criminal mischief can leave your with a criminal record that will follow you for years.

What is Criminal Mischief?

A person commits criminal mischief when they “recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally damage or deface property of another person without the other person’s consent.” IC 35-43-1-2. This includes vandalism, like spraying slogans on a building, breaking school windows, or letting the air out of someone’s car tires. Stopping people from using their own property or interfering with someone else’s property can also be mischief.

Penalties for Criminal Mischief

The penalties for mischief depend on the kind and value of the property that was damaged or destroyed. All criminal mischief is at minimum a Class B misdemeanor. From there, however, the stakes can get significantly higher.

Criminal mischief is a Class A misdemeanor when:

The property loss caused by the defendant’s conduct is at least $250 but less than $2,500;

  • The damage is to a house of worship, a school or community center, or the grounds of such facilities (known as “institutional criminal mischief”) and the damage caused is less than $250.

Criminal mischief becomes a Level 6 felony if:

  • The damage caused is at least two thousand five hundred dollars $2,500;
  • The damage causes a substantial interruption or impairment of utility service rendered to the public;
  • The damage is to a public record;
  • The damage is to a law enforcement animal;
  • The damage is to a house of worship, a school or community center, or the grounds of such facilities and is between $250 and $2,500.

If the damage to a school or house of worship exceeds $2,500, criminal mischief becomes a Class 6 felony. Additionally, mischief involving graffiti can also result in a one-year suspension of your Indiana driver’s license, on top of all other penalties.

If you have been charged with criminal mischief of any kind, you need to take the matter as seriously as do police and prosecutors. Contact an experienced Indiana criminal defense lawyer at your earliest opportunity.

The laws governing legal advertising in the state of Indiana require the following statement in any publication of this kind: “THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT.” This website is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.


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