WHAT IS CRIMINAL MISCHIEF?

Ohio’s criminal mischief law (ORC 2909.07(A)(1)) says:

“No person shall, without privilege to do so, knowingly move, deface, damage, destroy, or otherwise improperly tamper with the property of another.”

In order to prove criminal mischief, the state must prove some change in either the physical location or physical condition of the property.  To be guilty of criminal mischief, one must damage or alter the condition of the property. Merely being present on property will not rise to the level of criminal mischief.

The corresponding Columbus city code for criminal mischief – Columbus City Code Section 2309.07 – is more or less identical to the Ohio statute.  

criminal mischief columbus

POTENTIAL PENALTIES FOR CRIMINAL MISCHIEF

In most cases, conviction of criminal mischief under ORC 2929.07(A)(1) is a third degree misdemeanor carrying the following penalties:

  • 60 days maximum jail
  • $500 maximum fine

If the defendant created a risk of physical harm to someone, the penalties can be more serious. 

DEFENSES TO CRIMINAL MISCHIEF CHARGES

The Ohio Court of Appeals for the Fifth District has held that an individual is not guilty of criminal mischief unless the evidence can show of some change in either the physical location or physical condition of the property. State v. Cooke, 2016-Ohio-344.

Examples of cases where criminal mischief charges have been dismissed or overturned include:  

  • Peering into car windows and attempting to open several car doors. The court rejected the criminal mischief charge because there was no damage and the defendant didn’t move the cars or otherwise change their physical condition.  State v. Maxwell, 9th Dist. Medina No. 1646, 1988 WL 38075 (April 13, 1988). 
  • Putting a handwritten note on a neighbor’s trashcan, secured by placing a stick on top of the note. The court found this was not criminal mischief because there was no evidence of tampering.  State v. Collier, 2nd Dist. Montgomery No. 22686, 2010-Ohio-4039.
  • No criminal mischief where there is no change in either the physical location or physical condition of the property.  State v. Maxwell, 9th Dist. Medina No. 1646, 1988 WL 38075 (April 13, 1988). 
  • Running up and down streets and jumping on and off of porches is not criminal mischief – even if it scared the homeowner’s daughter –  because there was no change in the physical condition of the home.  State v. Cooke, 2016-Ohio-3445.

Each case is different and “criminal mischief” can often be a catch-all for a variety of actions the police think should be prohibited.  If you have questions about your Columbus criminal mischief charge, talk to our defense attorneys at 614-361-2804. 

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