Charged with Criminal Mischief in Fort Worth / Tarrant County?
If you have been arrested or have received a phone call from a Tarrant County detective informing you that you are under criminal investigation for the crime of criminal mischief, you need to immediately do the following:
- Exercise Your Right To Remain Silent – you do not have to answer a criminal detective’s questions about the incident. Do not be deceived by the detective. Many detectives will claim that they are your friend and that they want to find the underlying cause of what happened and only want to sit down and get your side of the story. Unfortunately, if you agree to speak with the detective, that will never happen. Meeting with a criminal detective will only lead to the detective interrogating you and taking every word you say and piecing together a story that could lead to probable cause for an arrest warrant.
- Contact An Experienced and Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney – do not attempt to speak to a detective or navigate an active warrant for your arrest by yourself. The best criminal mischief attorneys will be ready to advise you of your options and research what Texas criminal law says about criminal mischief as applied to your facts. If you speak to a detective on your own, every word you say will be used against you. If you allow your criminal defense lawyer to talk for you, you will be protected. Statements made by your criminal attorney are hearsay and inadmissible against you in a court proceeding. Do not make the mistake of trusting the detective during a criminal investigation. The detective is not your friend!
Elements Of The Crime Of Criminal Mischief Under Texas Law
For a thorough understanding of what you are facing under Texas law, you must first consult the Texas Penal Code. According to Texas Penal Code, Title 7: Offenses Against Property, Chapter 28, Section 28.03, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office will be required to prove the following elements of criminal mischief beyond a reasonable doubt:
A person commits an offense if, without the effective consent of the owner:
- He intentionally or knowingly damages or destroys the tangible property of the owner.
- He intentionally or knowingly tampers with the tangible property of the owner and causes pecuniary loss or substantial inconvenience to the owner or a third person; or
- He intentionally or knowingly makes markings, including inscriptions, slogans, drawings, or paintings, on the tangible property of the owner.
Determining whether your Tarrant County criminal mischief charge is a felony or misdemeanor will be based upon the alleged monetary damage sustained as a result of the incident. The more expensive the alleged repairs are to the property, the more serious the range of punishment under Texas criminal law.
Similar to theft, the Texas Penal Code breaks down criminal mischief as follows: An offense under this section is:
- A Class C misdemeanor if the amount of pecuniary loss is less than $100.
- A Class B misdemeanor if the amount of pecuniary loss is $100 or more but less than $750.
- A Class A misdemeanor if: the amount of pecuniary loss is $750 or more but less than $2,500; or the actor causes in whole or in part impairment or interruption of any public water supply, or causes to be diverted in whole, in part, or in any manner, including installation or removal of any device for any such purpose, any public water supply, regardless of the amount of the pecuniary loss.
- A state jail felony if the amount of pecuniary loss is: $2,500 or more but less than $30,000; less than $2,500, if the property damaged or destroyed is a habitation and if the damage or destruction is caused by a firearm or explosive weapon; less than $2,500, if the property was a fence used for the production or containment of: cattle, bison, horses, sheep, swine, goats, exotic livestock, or exotic poultry; or game animals as that term is defined by Section 63.001, Parks and Wildlife Code; or less than $30,000 and the actor causes wholly or partly impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public gas or power supply, or other public service, or causes to be diverted wholly, partly, or in any manner, including installation or removal of any device for any such purpose, any public communications or public gas or power supply;
- a felony of the third degree if the amount of the pecuniary loss is $30,000 or more but less than $150,000.
- a felony of the second degree if the amount of pecuniary loss is $150,000 or more but less than $300,000; or
- a felony of the first degree if the amount of pecuniary loss is $300,000 or more.
As you can see, facing a criminal mischief charge can create criminal consequences ranging from merely a fine up to life in prison. If you are facing a criminal mischief charge in Tarrant County, it is extremely important to seek counsel from an experienced Fort Worth criminal lawyer.
At The Hampton Law Firm, my years of experience as a former Tarrant County Prosecutor and experienced criminal defense attorney will be put to work for you to help to keep you in defending your criminal mischief charge.
Legal Defenses To Criminal Mischief In Texas
Never underestimate the value of a good criminal defense attorney. There are numerous criminal defenses to the charge of criminal mischief. However, it is critical that you hire an experienced and aggressive Fort Worth criminal defense attorney that has a proven track record of getting criminal mischief cases dismissed or resolved in a manner that helps you get your charges removed from your criminal record. The best criminal mischief lawyers will be prepared with possible defenses to your criminal mischief charge. Let us examine a few possible defenses:
Value of the Property Damage Is Not Accurate
For example, the Tarrant County prosecutors will be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the element of value. Many people assume that a damaged item is worth what the alleged victim says it is worth.
However, under Texas Penal Code, Chapter 28, Section 28.06, the amount of pecuniary loss is determined by the fair market value of the property at the time and place of the destruction; or if the fair market value of the property cannot be ascertained, the cost of replacing the property within a reasonable time after the destruction. It is quite common that a damaged item can be determined to be worth much less than the victim claims, thereby creating a valid criminal defense that can minimize the criminal consequences you may be facing.
Another tactic your criminal defense attorney can take to fight value is to obtain independent third-party estimates regarding the alleged damage claim. If you are able to obtain damage estimates that place the value of the property damage at a significantly lower amount than the claims of the alleged victim, you create leverage in negotiating because you are able to cast doubt regarding the alleged victim’s credibility and the ability of the prosecutor to prove the value of the charged criminal mischief case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Is it possible you were not even around when the so-called criminal mischief took place? We represented a client where an ex-girlfriend had claimed our client had caused damage to her side mirrors on her car. She told the police that it had to be him and was willing to testify to this. However, our client was able to show proof by pictures, receipts, and tickets that he was at a Texas Rangers baseball game in Arlington at the time of the alleged criminal mischief. By establishing a concrete alibi legal defense, the prosecutor was forced to dismiss the criminal mischief charge because he was unable to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Lack Of Criminal Intent To Commit Criminal Mischief
Can the State of Texas prove that the action that led to the property damage was intentional or knowing? The Texas Penal Code requires the prosecutor to prove that you INTENTIONALLY OR KNOWINGLY damaged or destroyed the property of another. Mistaken or accidental damage to property is NOT a crime under Texas law.
For example: if you get into a car accident and damage is caused, should you be liable for criminal mischief under Texas criminal law? NO! A car accident is, at best, negligent or reckless. If every incident of property damage were classified as criminal mischief, every person in a car accident that was at fault would be arrested for criminal mischief and face possible jail time and fines. What if you are playing baseball in your front yard and the ball misses another person’s ball glove and the ball breaks a car window? Once again, this is an accident. Your experienced and aggressive criminal mischief lawyer must look at the contextual evidence surrounding the facts to determine if the criminal intent element can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Grand Jury Presentation For Felony Criminal Mischief Charges
What if you have been arrested and charged with felony criminal mischief charges? Being charged and convicted of a felony can have devastating long-term consequences. If you are convicted of felony criminal mischief charges, you can lose your right to vote in federal and state elections and permanently limit your opportunity to obtain gainful employment. Most employers will not give convicted felons the time of day during the interview process. It is critical to make certain that your felony criminal mischief charges are managed effectively so that you can give yourself the best change at getting your criminal mischief case dismissed.
One of the most effective ways to get a felony criminal mischief charge dismissed is through the grand jury process. The grand jury is a panel of Tarrant county citizens that are tasked with the responsibility to listen to felony cases presented to them to determine if probable cause exists. Essentially, a grand jury has three options: keep the case a felony charge and assign it to a felony district court, lower the felony criminal mischief case to a lesser misdemeanor charge and assign it to a misdemeanor county court, or No Bill the charge. A no bill is a complete dismissal of all charges and a finding that you are exonerated. If your felony criminal mischief charge is no billed by a grand jury, you will be eligible for an expunction to destroy all arrest and criminal records related to your charge.
By hiring an experienced and aggressive criminal lawyer, a packet of evidence can be prepared and presented to the grand jury outlining some of the defenses we mentioned above. Without your criminal defense lawyer’s presentation of the evidence, the grand jury will only hear the prosecutor’s version of the events and you will lose out on a wonderful opportunity to have your felony criminal mischief charge dismissed early in the criminal justice process.
The average period from filing of charges to presentation to the grand jury in Fort Worth, Texas is approximately 60 – 90 days. This means you should do all that you can to hire a criminal attorney as soon as you can so that you do not miss the opportunity to get your case no billed by a grand jury.
Finally, if your criminal mischief charge has been dismissed, you must understand that your arrest and charges do not automatically come off your criminal record. You need to hire a criminal lawyer to file a petition for expunction to destroy all records. If your criminal mischief was dismissed as a felony, you will be required to wait three years from the date of the dismissal before you are eligible for an expunction. If your criminal mischief was dismissed as a misdemeanor, you will be required to wait two years from the date of the dismissal before you are eligible for an expunction.
If you are facing a criminal mischief charge, call The Hampton Law Firm now and speak to one of our team of former Tarrant County prosecutors with over 80 years of criminal law experience so that we can discuss the facts of your case and assist you in finding the best way to resolve this criminal charge. Contact Jeff Hampton at the Hampton Law Firm at 817-826-9905.
Contact the Hampton Law Firm now to schedule a free consultation to determine your rights and legal options.