Criminal Mischief in Colorado – C.R.S. 18-4-501
Criminal Mischief, although a seemingly simple charge, is one of the most common charges we see.
In order to be charged with, and ultimately convicted of this offense, law enforcement and the prosecution need to show that you “knowingly damaged the real or personal property of one or more other persons, including property owned jointly with another person or property owned by the person in which another person has a possessory or propriety interest, in the course of a single criminal episode.”
The best way to get your mind around this charge is to break it into sections.
First, it must be show that the suspect or defendant damaged real or personal property. Personal property is what you think it is – items of property or belongings. This could be someone’s TV, phone, door, dog gate, textbook, etc. ‘Real property’ refers to the land and/or anything ‘permanently’ attached to that land. This allows the law to be applied to a person’s land, as well as any buildings, structures, or features of the land, including landscaping.
Therefore, someone could be charged with Criminal Mischief if they damaged someone’s car or phone but also if they damaged their land or home. Before your teenager goes out to egg houses or smash mailboxes, perhaps let them know the serious charges that could result from either of those actions. Similarly, burning a school’s logo on the field of a rival school could result in charges of this nature.
The second step is to assess whose property has been damaged. It is true that someone can damage their own property if it is just that – their property and their property alone. If that property is shared with someone else, perhaps a significant other, then that property doesn’t belong to them alone and any damage to that ‘shared’ property can be deemed prohibited conduct under the Criminal Mischief statute.
The third thing to point out is that someone can only be charged with, and convicted of, criminal mischief if that person “knowingly” damaged the relevant real or personal property. This requirement that it be done “knowingly” is an important dynamic in these cases and a potential basis for a defense to the charge. Knowingly means that a person is practically certain that some conduct will result in the outcome that does happen. For example, if a person throws a rock at a window, that person is practically certain that the result will be a broken window, or Criminal Mischief. However, if that same person breaks a window playing baseball on a nearby field, then that person’s conduct was not practically certain to cause a broken window, or not Criminal Mischief. While this is an extremely simple example, it highlights how the mens rea, knowingly, comes into play in this statute.
Another important facet of the Criminal Mischief statute is that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the value of the alleged damaged property. If the value of the damaged property is less than $300 then it will be charged as a Class 3 misdemeanor – the lowest misdemeanor in Colorado. If the value of the property is in at least $300 but no more than $750 then, in that case, it will be charged as a Class 2 misdemeanor. If the value of the property at issue is $750 or more but less than $1,000, then that will be charged as a Class 3 misdemeanor.
If the value of the property is at least $1,000 but no more than $5,000 then the criminal mischief will be filed as a Class 6 felony. If the value is at least $5,000 but no more than $20,000 then that will be a Class 5 felony. If the value is at least $20,000 but not more than $100,000 then that will be charged as a Class 4 felony. If the value is at least $100,000 but not more than $1,000,000 then that will be a class 3 felony. Finally, if the alleged value of the damaged property is more than $1,000,000 then that will be charged as a class 2 felony.
Although this may appear to be a simple property crime, that is not always the case. Frequently, criminal mischief is charged in combination with the enhancer of Domestic Violence. As such, a conviction would be based in domestic violence, and it would be become a permanent fixture on your criminal history.
Due to the gravity of this type of offense and the different defenses that may be applicable, it is imperative that you contact and speak to an attorney who is familiar with handling these matters. All of the attorneys at the Law Office of Jacob E. Martinez have handled this type of case and are ready to talk to you about your matter. Contact our Denver Criminal Mischief attorneys today.