Connecticut Criminal Mischief Lawyer
Connecticut has an unusual name for vandalism: it’s called “Criminal Mischief.” Charges for this crime can come in various degrees of severity—from low-level misdemeanors to felony charges. The crime is grounded in protecting people’s rights in their personal, tangible property. We usually see this crime charged against people who damage mailboxes, break into cars, post graffiti, urinate on public or private property, or engage in other acts of vandalism.
For years, the Vandalism / Criminal Mischief attorneys at Mark Sherman Law have successfully defended Criminal Mischief cases—whether it be school vandalism (i.e. senior prank day), house parties gone wild, or property damage / Criminal Mischief during a domestic violence incident. Whatever the situation, if you are charged with Criminal Mischief in Stamford, Darien, Greenwich, Westport, New Canaan, Norwalk, Fairfield, or Wilton, be sure to call a top Stamford Criminal Mischief lawyer to discuss the possibility of getting these charges dismissed.
The Different Degrees of Connecticut Criminal Mischief Charges – Definitions & Penalties
The best Greenwich and Stamford Connecticut criminal lawyers will likely agree that what distinguishes the degree of a Criminal Mischief charge is usually the alleged value of the property damage. Typically the police and prosecutors decide the value of the property damage. We often see this number get puffed up to allow law enforcement to charge the most serious charges. However, a Connecticut Vandalism / Criminal Mischief attorney can work to chip away at that property damage number. As discussed below, there are many ways to attack and fight a Criminal Mischief charge. For example, one important element of the more serious Criminal Mischief charges is that the vandalism and mischief be intentional. Thus, accidental damage would not be criminal and is not illegal. Keep reading to learn more about the difference between the various Connecticut Criminal Mischief charges and how an experienced Stamford criminal lawyer can formulate the best defense for your case.
First Degree Criminal Mischief – C.G.S. 53a-115
Criminal Mischief in the First Degree – C.G.S. 53a-115 is the most serious Criminal Mischief charge. It is a Class D Felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a $5000 fine, and probation. To be guilty of this felony First Degree Criminal Mischief charge, the prosecution must prove that (a) you intentionally caused damage to property belonging to another person or business in an amount over $1500, or (b) you intentionally damaged or tampered with property involved with a public utility such as transportation (train or bus system), power (electricity or gas lines), or telecommunications (phone service or cell phone towers), resulting in an actual interruption or disruption of such services.
Second Degree Criminal Mischief – C.G.S. 53a-116
Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree – C.G.S. 53a-116 is charged when police accuse you of (1) intentionally causing property damage in an amount over $250, or (2) intentionally damaging public utility property, resulting in a mere risk of interruption or disruption of such services. This Second Degree charge is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail, a maximum $2000 fine and probation. The value of the property damage is critical here: a felony charge can be avoided if the alleged damage is less than $1500. Again, setting the number of this alleged amount is up to the prosecutor and police. Once the charges are filed, then you and your top Connecticut criminal lawyer are able contest issues such as property damage value and intent.
Third Degree Criminal Mischief – C.G.S. 53a-117
The next level of Criminal Mischief and Vandalism is Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree under C.G.S. 53a-117. Here, the value of the property is not at issue. All that is needed to be arrested for this crime is that you intentionally or recklessly damage tangible property. In fact, the criminal statute even gets vaguer here as a subsection of this Third Degree Criminal Mischief statute states that even placing property at risk of being damaged can justify an arrest. Third Degree Criminal Mischief is a Class B Misdemeanor, carrying a 6 month maximum jail penalty, and up to $1000 in fines.
Fourth Degree Criminal Mischief – C.G.S. 53a-118 – Fire Detecting Device Vandalism
Finally, the least serious vandalism charge is Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree under C.G.S. 53a-118. The crux of this charge deals with vandalism to fire hydrants, and tampering with publicly owned fire detection systems and fire alarms. The law takes tampering with fire prevention devices very seriously in light of how dangerous fires can be if not put out quickly by local fire departments. It is a Class C misdemeanor which means it is punishable by 3 months jail and a $500 fine. Practically speaking, although this is the least serious charge, some judges and prosecutors actually take Fourth Degree Criminal Mischief cases more seriously than the higher-degree charges, as the risks triggered by tampering with fire alarms can lead to unnecessary injuries and fatalities.
What Happens at Your First Court Appearance for Criminal Mischief?
Your first court appearance for a Criminal Mischief charge is called an arraignment hearing. By this court date, you have hopefully hired a top Stamford, Norwalk, Greenwich or New Canaan Connecticut criminal lawyer who will stand beside you at the hearing. If you are charged with any degree of Criminal Mischief, then you can expect that the prosecutor will request that the Court order as an additional condition of your release that you stay away from the home, office, restaurant, or general vicinity of where you are accused of damaging property. Remember to strictly comply with that court order, as violating a condition of your release can result in an altogether new misdemeanor or felony charge under C.G.S. 53a-222. On or before this court date, a Connecticut attorney can review the police reports with you, and start working with you to craft the most effective Criminal Mischief defense.
Preserving Electronic Surveillance Evidence in Criminal Mischief & Vandalism Cases
One critical issue in Greenwich Vandalism and Stamford Criminal Mischief arrest cases is preserving electronic surveillance evidence that may prove your innocence. Oftentimes, digital security camera surveillance runs on 1-day to 30-day loops, and if your Connecticut Criminal Mischief attorney does not act quickly, then that video footage can disappear quickly. Here at Mark Sherman Law, our lawyers will sometimes file paperwork at your first court date to ask the Court to order that certain electronic surveillance be saved, preserved and delivered to the State’s Attorney’s office. While this may be cumbersome, it may be only way to show a judge or jury that you were NOT the vandal that the police believe you to be.
Fighting Criminal Mischief Charges – Intentional v. Accidental Damage
Fighting your Criminal Mischief charges in Stamford, Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien or elsewhere in Connecticut requires a multi-pronged attack. The best Stamford vandalism criminal lawyers will dissect your case, scrutinize your police reports, and collect and analyze all the available evidence. A police officer’s estimate of property damage may not necessarily be accurate. Further, whether the damage to property was intentional versus accidental can sometimes make the difference between a crime and an innocent accident.
The Criminal Mischief attorneys at Mark Sherman Law offer a “two-attorney review” of your police reports. We look for constitutional and procedural defects and are not afraid to ruffle feathers at the courthouse if a motion to suppress or motion to dismiss needs to be filed in furtherance of your defense. Additionally, and only if your case calls for it, we often reach out to the people whose property was damaged. We will work in a sensitive and expeditious manner to try and make these people whole, get their property fixed, repaired or replaced, and smoothe all the criminal issues over to a point where these victims may actually support you and our defense team in our efforts to get your case dismissed as quickly as possible.
Contact a Connecticut Criminal Mischief Attorney Today
If you have been arrested for Vandalism or Criminal Mischief in Greenwich, New Canaan, Stamford, Norwalk, Darien, Wilton, Fairfield, Weston, Easton, Ridgefield, or any other Connecticut jurisdiction, contact one of the Connecticut Criminal Mischief Lawyers at Mark Sherman Law today. As you can see, Criminal Mischief charges can get very serious very quickly. What may have started out as a Connecticut high school prank can snowball into legal problems that can linger over you or your child for years. Give us a call at Mark Sherman Law to learn how we can help you get your case dismissed.