Criminal Mischief and Graffiti

The act of damaging property that belongs to another person is known in the New York Penal Code as "Criminal Mischief." If you find yourself under arrest for criminal mischief, contact a New York City criminal lawyer immediately.

The degree of Criminal Mischief that a person commits depends on several factors. The most important factor is the cost to repair the damage. For example, if a person intentionally destroys someone's computer and the damage is worth $200, then he is guilty of Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree. However, if it is worth $300, then he committed Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree.

The most basic form of Criminal Mischief is Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree. A person commits Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree in one of four ways. By far the most common is when he intentionally damages the property of another person and when he has no right to do so nor does he have any reasonable ground to believe that he had such a right. Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree is a class A misdemeanor which is punishable by up to one year in jail. The other three examples of Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree occur when a person intentionally participated in the destruction of an "abandoned building," or when when he recklessly causes damage to property in excess of $250, or when a person intentionally disables communications equipment which another person is trying to use to contact emergency services. An example of this occurs when a criminal takes a victim's cell phone and breaks it so she can't call 911. In all examples of Criminal Mischief, there is a legal requirement that the person did not have the right to destroy the property, nor did he have reasonable grounds to conclude that he had such a right.

The term "abandoned building," which is listed above is a building which is "certified by the requisite municipality as being abandoned."

Pursuant to the penal code, a person participates in the destruction of an abandoned building anytime he "intentionally removes or damages any fixture or part of the structure of an abandoned building."

If the person intentionally damages the property that belongs to another and the value of the property damage is in excess of $250, then the person is guilty of Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree. This is a class E felony which is punishable by up to 4 years in jail. If the value of the property is in excess of $1,500, then the person is guilty of Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree. This is a class D felony which is punishable by up to 7 years in jail.

If the person uses an explosive to damage the property, then he is guilty of Criminal Mischief in the First Degree. This is a class B felony which is punishable by up to 25 years in jail. This is a very serious crime.

With regard to anti-graffiti laws, it should come as no surprise that it is a crime to make "graffiti" in New York. In addition, to anti-graffiti laws, it is also a crime to possess a "graffiti instrument." The problem is that the graffiti statute is written rather vaguely. This means that many innocent people find themselves charged with this crime.

Pursuant to New York Penal Code Section 145.60, it is a class A misdemeanor when a person: (i) etches, (ii) paints, (iii) covers, (iv) draws upon, or (v) otherwise places a mark upon public or private property with the intent to damage the property. A person convicted of this crime may be sentenced to up to one year in jail if convicted of this crime.

A person can be convicted of "Possession of Graffiti Instruments" in violation of New York Penal Code Section 145.65 if he "possesses an tool, instrument article, substance, solution or other compound designed or commonly used to etch, paint, cover, draw upon or otherwise place a mark upon a piece of property which that person has no permission or authority" to do so "under circumstances evincing an intent to use the same in order to damage such property." This is a class B misdemeanor, meaning that a person convicted of this crime may be sentenced to up to 90 days in jail.

There are many defenses to both Criminal Mischief and Graffiti crimes. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help. Feel free to contact John Buza if you, or a loved one, is accused of this crime.