Criminal Mischief Lawyer
Serving all of Maine Including Augusta, Bangor, Saco, Biddeford and Portland
Property crimes are things that you can do to someone else's property that the state of Maine has determined should be illegal. You can contrast property crimes with violent crimes which, in Maine, are crimes against a person, rather than against property. Because we can all agree that people are more important than things, laws prohibiting property crimes carry lesser penalties for breaking them than laws prohibiting violent crimes.
There are numerous ways to commit a property crime. Among them are theft, arson, burglary, and larceny. All of these actions harm someone else's property, by either by damaging it, destroying it, or taking it for yourself so they can't use it.
Another type of property crime is criminal mischief, often referred to in Maine as vandalism. The most important part of Maine's criminal mischief law states:
“A person is guilty of criminal mischief if that person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly damages or destroys the property of another, having no reasonable grounds to believe that the person has a right to do so; damages or destroys property to enable any person to collect insurance proceeds for the loss caused; or tampers with the property of another, having no reasonable grounds to believe that the person has the right to do so, and thereby impairs the use of that property”
There are several important elements to this law.
State of Mind
Notice that Maine's criminal mischief law prohibits damaging or destroying someone else's property “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly.” This means several things.
First, it means that, in order to be prosecuted and convicted for criminal mischief, the district attorney has to get inside your head, and show that you had a “culpable state of mind ” when you did whatever it was that you were charged for. Reading minds is not easy. Often, you have to look for outward signs to try to piece together what was going on in someone else's mind. Prosecutors often have trouble looking for those outward signs. As a result, having to show that you had a “culpable state of mind” in order to convict you for criminal mischief is one of the biggest stumbling blocks that prosecutors have to overcome. A good criminal defense attorney can turn those stumbling blocksinto hurdles, and then turn those hurdles into mountains.
Secondly, there are a lot of “or”s in that listing. This means that the prosecutor can manage toconvict you for criminal mischief by showing any one of the following to someone else's property:
● You intentionally damaged or destroyed it,
● You knowingly damaged or destroyed it, or
● You recklessly damaged or destroyed it.
While this might make it slightly easier for a prosecutor to show that you had the required “culpable state of mind” for a conviction, it still requires the prosecutor to do the work and cover his or her bases. Whenever a prosecutor has the burden of proving something, like a culpable state of mind,criminal defense attorneys are given the opportunity to dismantle their case.
A Reasonable Right to Do So
Maine's criminal mischief law requires that you could not have had a reasonable ground to believe that you had a right to damage or destroy the property at issue. This presents the prosecutor with another hurdle to overcome, in order to convict you for the crime, and your defense attorney with another opportunity to show your innocence.
There are numerous situations where you would have reasonable grounds for believing that you had a right to damage or destroy the property. For example, if you were under the impression that the property was actually yours to damage or destroy. Or if you were given permission by the owner to ruin it. A home renovator cannot hire a wrecking crew to do some demo work, and then call the cops and have them all arrested for criminal mischief.
Impairs the Use of That Property
Still another requirement that prosecutors have to meet, in order to get a conviction for criminal mischief, is that the damage to the property impaired its use in some way. This rendition of the “no harm, no foul,” rule is another gold mine for defense attorneys, who often use it to nullify charges pressed by prosecutors who are trying to get the law to reach people who did nothing wrong.
If you do end up getting convicted for criminal mischief, the potential penalties on the table include jail time and fines. For general criminal mischief, a Class D misdemeanor, the penalty is up to 364 days in jail, and up to $2,000 in fines. On top of the amount in fines, you could also deal with a motion to give the property owner restitution for the damages that were caused. The amount of the money you would owe would depend on how bad the damage was.
If the damage or destruction of property amounts to over $2,000, however, the criminal mischief charge turns into a charge for aggravated criminal mischief. This is a Class C felony charge, and comes with up to 5 years in prison, as well as up to $5,000 in fines. On top of this, there is still the potential for paying restitution to the owner of the property.
Other Situations of Criminal Mischief
There are also other, less common, ways that you can get arrested and charged for criminal mischief. Damaging or tampering the property of a public entity, or a pseudopublic
entity, can result in criminal mischief charges. These entities include the property of:
● Law enforcement,
● The fire department, or
● A utility provider, such as the water, electric, or phone company.
Lastly, and perhaps least common, you could even face criminal mischief charges for simply driving a sufficiently hard object into a tree or saw log, without the permission of the owner. If you do this with the intent to inconvenience someone, you could be charged for committing criminal mischief. Maine does love its logging companies.