Hijinks, high spirits and criminal mischief in Pennsylvania

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2024 | Juvenile Crimes

Summer is already in full swing, and schools have mostly ended their sessions – and that leaves a lot of teenagers with extra time on their hands.

Some of them are bound to let youthful exuberance (or foolishness) get out of hand. Unfortunately, when teens act up or act out through acts of vandalism, it can lead to serious charges.

Pennsylvania calls vandalism “criminal mischief”

Criminal mischief is defined under Title 18, Section 3304 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. It generally involves damaging or defacing someone else’s property. Common examples include:

  • Graffiti: Spray painting or marking buildings, fences or vehicles without the owner’s permission
  • Breaking windows: Intentionally shattering the windows of a house, car, business or even an abandoned building
  • Damaging cars: Scratching the paint on a car with a key or other sharp object in a moment of anger or frustration or to get revenge, or slashing tires and breaking mirrors
  • Destroying public property: Damaging park benches, defacing public restroom walls or breaking streetlights by throwing rocks at them
  • Smashing mailboxes: Destroying or defacing mailboxes, which are often seen in acts of rural vandalism 
  • Arson: Setting fire to someone’s property, including abandoned cars and buildings 
  • Defacing monuments: Damaging statues, plaques or other public monuments, whether as an act of protest or not

If the vandalism takes place in a cemetery, school or church, then the crime is called institutional vandalism, and that’s treated even more harshly. 

Generally speaking, the penalties for criminal mischief can be severe – and they’re directly tied to the value of the damage that was done. In a best-case scenario, a defendant could be facing up to 90 days in jail and a $250 fine – but it’s not very hard for a charge to escalate to a felony in the third degree, which is punished up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

If your teenage or young adult child is charged with criminal mischief, don’t let the name of the charge fool you into thinking the issue isn’t serious. An experienced defense is the best option.

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