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New York Criminal Mischief: Frequently Asked Questions

New York Criminal Mischief: Frequently Asked Questions

Criminal mischief laws in New York aim to deter and punish intentional damage to property. Charges range from misdemeanors to felonies depending on the extent of damage. Here are some common questions about criminal mischief in NY:

What is criminal mischief?

Criminal mischief involves intentionally damaging someone else’s property without permission. It includes acts like breaking windows, slashing tires, spraying graffiti, knocking down fences, etc. The key is that the damage is intentional, not just accidental.

What are the criminal mischief charges in NY?

There are 4 degrees of criminal mischief charges in New York:

  • Criminal mischief 4th degree (Class A misdemeanor) – damage less than $250
  • Criminal mischief 3rd degree (Class E felony) – damage $250 to $1,500
  • Criminal mischief 2nd degree (Class D felony) – damage $1,500 to $50,000
  • Criminal mischief 1st degree (Class B felony) – damage over $50,000 or to public property like bridges, train tracks, etc.

Higher charges mean more potential jail time. Felonies also come with big fines and can affect job, housing, etc. [1]

What are the defenses against criminal mischief?

Some possible defenses include:

  • Lack of intent – the damage was an accident, not intentional
  • Authorization – you had permission to damage the property
  • Intoxication – you were too impaired to form intent
  • Necessity – you had to damage the property to prevent greater harm
  • Self-defense – you damaged property while defending yourself

An attorney can evaluate the facts of your case and advise on the best defense. [2]

What if I was falsely accused?

Police and prosecutors must prove criminal mischief charges beyond a reasonable doubt. If you have an alibi or evidence showing you didn’t commit the crime, an attorney can challenge the charges. Never try to talk your way out of charges with police without a lawyer.

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What should I do if charged with criminal mischief?

Steps to take if charged include:

  • Politely decline to answer police questions and ask for your lawyer
  • Hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible
  • Follow your lawyer’s advice about responding to charges or negotiating with prosecutors
  • Consider options like plea bargains or diversion programs to minimize penalties

An experienced lawyer is critical for getting the best outcome. [3]

How can I fight criminal mischief charges?

Your attorney may recommend strategies like:

  • Filing motions to suppress illegally obtained evidence
  • Negotiating with the prosecutor for lesser charges or diversion
  • Presenting evidence and witnesses showing your innocence
  • Arguing there is reasonable doubt you committed the crime
  • Seeking dismissal of flawed charges

Vigorously contesting the charges or making prosecutors prove their case can lead to acquittals or convictions on lesser offenses. [4]

What are the penalties for criminal mischief in NY?

Potential penalties include:

  • Up to 1 year in jail for a misdemeanor
  • 1 to 7 years in prison for a felony
  • Fines from $250 to $5,000+
  • Restitution to repay victims for property damage
  • Probation or community service
  • Permanent criminal record

Penalties increase for higher charges, prior convictions, etc. An attorney may negotiate reduced penalties or alternative sentencing. [5]

Will a criminal mischief conviction affect my record?

Criminal mischief convictions stay on your record permanently. Felonies are more serious while misdemeanors are still visible to employers, landlords, etc. Expungement may be possible after a waiting period. An attorney can advise on clearing your record.

What if I was charged with criminal mischief as a minor?

New York has youthful offender status for minors charged with crimes. This keeps the case confidential and avoids a permanent criminal record. An attorney can help negotiate youthful offender treatment and avoid lasting impact on a minor’s future.

When can police make arrests for criminal mischief?

Police can arrest if they have probable cause, like witnessing the damage, seeing it on surveillance video, finding your property at the scene, etc. Never resist arrest or flee from police. Let your lawyer handle the police and charges.

Should I take a plea deal for criminal mischief?

Prosecutors often offer plea bargains trading a guilty plea for reduced charges or a lighter sentence. While tempting, plea deals still result in a conviction. Your attorney will advise if a deal is advisable or if fighting the charges is better.

How much does a criminal mischief lawyer cost?

Costs vary by attorney experience, case complexity, and your location. Simple misdemeanor cases may start around $1,500 – $2,000. Felonies or going to trial could cost $5,000 – $15,000+. Ask lawyers about fees, payment plans, and legal aid if you cannot afford private counsel.

Facing criminal mischief charges can be stressful and complex. An experienced NY criminal defense lawyer can protect your rights, fight the allegations, and achieve the best possible outcome given the circumstances. Don’t hesitate to seek legal help.

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