Texas Vandalism Laws
Property damage is always at the heart of a criminal mischief prosecution under Texas vandalism statutes, and the severity of the charge is always proportional to the monetary value of the harm. If you are facing vandalism accusations in Texas, you should consult with an expert attorney who can provide you with the strongest available defenses in order to mitigate the repercussions of such charges.
Vandalism may appear to be innocuous at the moment, but if you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony criminal mischief, a conviction can impair your job prospects and haunt you in other ways for the rest of your life. Property damage attorneys have the knowledge and experience to fight Texas criminal mischief accusations and mount the best defense possible to protect your freedom and reputation.
Texas Laws on Vandalism and Criminal Mischief
Following a closely contested high school football game in Victoria County, one or more individuals crossed a line because of the Texas love for football. Following a home team victory, school administrators discovered sliced seat cushions, damaged shower curtains, and a broken water fountain in the visiting team locker room. Texas law enforcement officials no longer dismiss such acts as teenage misbehavior, but instead, aim to prosecute the culprits for vandalism and criminal damage.
A person commits criminal mischief in Texas if he or she willfully or knowingly destroys, modifies, or defaces another person’s physical property. This includes tampering with or harming personal property in ways that lessen its worth or cause financial loss or annoyance to the owner. Graffiti offenses include drawing on or marking another person’s property with paint or indelible ink.
Property damage alone is insufficient to support a criminal mischief allegation. A prosecutor must additionally show that a defendant acted purposefully or with knowing that their conduct will cause harm or destruction to someone else’s property. Even if a prosecution is unable to prove intent, a person might still be charged with reckless conduct. The precise facts of each case will decide the type of charges that are brought.
Criminal Mischief in Texas
Have you or a family member been charged with criminal mischief in Texas? Seek legal counsel to avoid putting yourself at the whim of the uncaring courts. In this section, we will look at examples of criminal misbehavior, categories, sanctions, repercussions, and viable defenses. Our goal is to ensure that your rights have not been violated and that you receive all of the compassion that the legal system provides individuals, regardless of whatever mistakes they may have made.
If you’re asking “what is criminal mischief,” look no further than Texas Penal Code Section 28.03, which classifies criminal mischief alongside arson and other property damage offenses. A person commits criminal mischief if, according to the law, he or she:
- Intentionally or knowingly damages or destroys tangible property belonging to another owner.
- Intentionally or knowingly tampers with tangible property of another owner, causing loss or inconvenience.
- Intentionally or knowingly makes markings, inscriptions, slogans, drawings, or paintings on a property.
Potential Punishments for Vandalism in Texas
With one exception, Texas establishes a $2,500 threshold to distinguish between a misdemeanor and felony criminal mischief. Losses of less than $2,500 will be charged as a Class A, B, or C misdemeanor, but they can still result in up to a year in jail and fines of up to $4,000, in addition to any restitution ordered. If the loss surpasses $2,500, the perpetrator may be charged with felony criminal mischief, which carries a two-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine. The only exception to the $2500 value criterion is because Texas law defines a separate felony category for damage to livestock fences, regardless of the cash worth of the fence.
Common Defenses to Vandalism Charges in Texas
No two situations that involve criminal mischief are alike. Consider, for example, a few recent Texas vandalism cases:
- In June 2018, police charged a Grand Prairie man with criminal mischief for shooting out the windows and doors of a number of businesses;
- In July 2018, a suspect broke into a high school in North Mesquite and broke vending machines and other property;
- A burglar caused more than $10,000 in losses to a downtown McKinney restaurant in November 2018, breaking out windows and damaging chairs;
- Three persons were indicted for vandalism in San Antonio in June 2018 after spray-painting slogans in opposition to First Lady, Melania Trump, on the San Antonio Mission National Historical Park Visitor’s Center.
The culprits in some of these incidents were captured on videotape while conducting the acts. It will be more difficult for a prosecutor to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt if there is no video or other direct evidence linking a defendant to specific property damage. As a result, one of the most prevalent defenses allowed under Texas vandalism laws is insufficient proof. Other possible defenses include:
- Consent of the owner of the damaged property;
- The damaged property was owned by the defendant, which raises the sometimes-difficult challenge of proving who owned the property;
- Accidental damage, or damage without intent;
- False or incorrect identification of the perpetrator from witnesses.
In every criminal mischief case, the defense attorney’s job will be to push the prosecutor to show the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In order to persuade jurors that a person is guilty, busy prosecutors frequently make assumptions and take shortcuts. A qualified vandalism defense lawyer will notice every flaw in the prosecutor’s case and take every legal effort to lessen or eliminate the possibility of a conviction.