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Criminal Mischief

Utah Code Section: 76-6-106

Elements

 

A person commits criminal mischief if the person:

(1)intentionally and unlawfully tampers with the property of another and as a result:

(a)recklessly endangers:

(i)human life; or

(ii)human health or safety; or

(b)recklessly causes or threatens a substantial interruption or impairment of any critical infrastructure;

(2)intentionally damages, defaces, or destroys the property of another; or

(3)recklessly or willfully shoots or propels a missile or other object at or against a motor vehicle, bus, airplane, boat, locomotive, train, railway car, or caboose, whether moving or standing.

 

 

Requisite Mental State of Mind

 

A person engages in conduct:

(1) Intentionally, or with intent or willfully with respect to the nature of his conduct or to a result of his conduct, when it is his conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result.

(2) Knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to his conduct or to circumstances surrounding his conduct when he is aware of the nature of his conduct or the existing circumstances. A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to a result of his conduct when he is aware that his conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result.

(3) Recklessly with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor's standpoint.

Defenses

The most common defenses to criminal mischief are two fold:

(1) that the defendant lacked the mental state to be convicted;

(2) that the defendant owned the property that was destroyed.

In the first defense, the defense is that the defendant did not act intentionally in damaging or destroying the property of another.  Acting intentionally is the highest mental state, and prosecutors frequently have problems proving the mental state.  Specifically, if the jury is convinced that a defendant acted either negligently or recklessly and that act resulting in the damage or destruction of another's property, the defendant is not guilty of criminal mischief.  It is only when it was the defendant's conscious objective to damage the property that the jury is allowed to convict.

The second defense presents itself most frequently in situations where the homeowner is being charged for damage to the home or to another occupant's property. Jointly owned property can qualify as the property of another “ if anyone, other than the defendant, has a possessory or proprietary interest in such tangible property ..."  If it cannot be established that anyone other than the defendant has an interest in the property, then the jury is instructed to find the defendant not guilty, since a person cannot be prosecuted for destroying their own property.
 

Voluntary Intoxication

 

Voluntary intoxication is an effective defense in criminal mischief cases involving damage or destruction to property.  The reason for this is the required mental state for criminal mischief, specifically, acting intentionally.

Voluntary intoxication shall not be a defense to a criminal charge unless such intoxication negates the existence of the mental state which is an element of the offense; however, if recklessness or criminal negligence establishes an element of an offense and the actor is unaware of the risk because of voluntary intoxication, his unawareness is immaterial in a prosecution for that offense.

Jail/Prison time, fines & restitution

 

The most common alleged violation of the criminal mischief statute relates to the damage or destruction of personal property. In those circumstances, the following levels of violation apply:

 

Criminal mischief is a second degree felony if the actor's conduct causes or is intended to cause pecuniary loss equal to or in excess of $5,000 in value;

 

Criminal mischief is a third degree felony if the actor's conduct causes or is intended to cause pecuniary loss equal to or in excess of $1,500 but is less than $5,000 in value;

 

Criminal mischief is a class A misdemeanor if the actor's conduct causes or is intended to cause pecuniary loss equal to or in excess of $500 but is less than $1,500 in value; and

 

Criminal Mischief is a class B misdemeanor if the actor's conduct causes or is intended to cause pecuniary loss less than $500 in value.

 

In determining the value of damages under this section, includes the measurable value of the loss of use of the items and the measurable cost to replace or restore the items.