December 9, 2023
The holidays are a time full of good tidings, joy, and laughter. Sometimes, these feelings of merriment come as a result of a good old-fashioned holiday prank. Unfortunately, these pranks can result in real trouble if someone believes you’ve taken your practical joke a bit too far.
Here in Colorado, it’s called criminal mischief, and knowing what that means could make the difference between spending the holidays feeling jolly…or in jail.
So how does Colorado law enforcement define criminal mischief?
Criminal mischief occurs when someone knowingly damages the property of someone else. This could be a home, yard, vehicle, or other property. What’s more, the damage itself does not need to be found “intentional” in order to press charges.
High School “Redecorating” Prank Turns Vandalism Charge
In just one instance, a handful of teenagers faced criminal charges after they used silly string, toilet paper, and spray paint to “redecorate” the walls of their high school.
This led to vandalism charges, and many of them were arrested and tried. Even as juveniles, these kids could face charges that have long-term consequences.
The reason these seemingly harmless scenarios are handled so harshly? It’s a fine line between mischief and something far worse…
An 18-Year-Old Track Star Loses Her Life
In a worst-case-scenario a few years back, a few teens were home alone (a common occurrence over holiday break). The older cousins snuck in and hid out in the closet while two younger ones played video games.
While intent was to jump out from the closet and surprise the gamers, the seemingly harmless prank resulted in a shooting — and an accidental death. The parents were ultimately charged with reckless endangerment.
Both of these seemingly simple pranks demonstrate how a little fun on your part could wind up being far more serious than you could expect. Let’s take a look at what Colorado law says about criminal mischief…
Colorado Law on Consequences for Criminal Mischief
The penalties for criminal mischief almost entirely depend on the value of the property that was damaged. Here’s a quick breakdown by damaged property value:
Less Than $1,000 Damage Value is a Misdemeanor Charge
- Class 3 Misdemeanor (value >$300) equals 6 mos. in jail plus a fine up to $750
- Class 2 Misdemeanor (value $300-$750) gets a year in prison and $1,000 maximum fine
- Class 1 Misdemeanor (value $750-$1,000) could land you $5,000 and 18 mos. In prison
$1,000-plus in Damage and You’re Facing Felony Charges
- A Class 6 felony applies to property valued between $1,000 and $5,000 and carries a possible sentence of 1.5 years imprisonment. You may be fined up to $100,000 as well.
- A Class 5 penalty (value of $5,000-$20,000) carries the same potential fines, and double the prison sentence.
- A Class 4 felony could get you 6 years in prison and a maximum of $500,000 in fines. This penalty applies when the damaged property is valued between $20,000-$100,000.
- Beyond $100,000 (up to $1 million), it’s considered a Class 3 felony, with a possible sentence of 12 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.
- Damaging property valued at over $1 million will land you Class 2 felony charges, which could result in 24 years of imprisonment as well as up to $1,000,000 in fines.
Our advice? Prank wisely this holiday season, friends, or pay the consequences of criminal mischief charges!
Prank Wisely This Holiday Season
To avoid trouble with the law this holiday season, make sure your pranks and practical jokes don’t cross the line of actually causing damage to somebody’s property or physically hurting someone. After all, jail time, a hefty fine, and a criminal record probably weren’t on your wish list this year. Happy holidays!
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.