Let’s say one night you and your friend have been drinking and decide to do something you think will be fun in the moment (but that you will definitely regret later!) You guys walk into a parking lot to check out all of the nice cars, and decide each of you is going to scratch one with your key. You both use the same key, and you both put a one inch scratch in a blue 2014 model car. You’re in it together, committing the exact same crime.
You are both subsequently caught and arrested for criminal mischief.
Only...when you’re formally charged, you’re looking at felony charges while your friend is only looking at a misdemeanor charge. You’re confused and wondering, how is this possible? You scratched cars from the same year, in the same color, with the same key, and the same size scratch, and now he’s looking at up to one year in prison while you’re looking at up to five?
The difference is that while your friend damaged a Toyota Corolla, you damaged a Ferrari. The mechanic quoted $500 in damage to the Toyota, and $2,100 to the Ferrari.
And when it comes to the crime of criminal mischief (vandalism), the monetary amount of damage is what determines the severity of both the charge and the penalty.
- When the property damage is valued at $200 or less, the person commits a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail.
- When the property damage is greater than $200 but less than $1,000, the offense is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail.
- When the amount of damage to the property exceeds $1,000, the offense is a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment.
So unfortunately, in the same manner that luxury car owners pay more for gas and repairs, those who damage luxury cars face steeper charges. It may sound crazy, but I’ve seen it first hand in my office.
I had one client who damaged a car in a parking lot that was blocking the doorway to the stairs. The first question I asked when she came in was what type of car it was. When she told me it was a Maserati, I knew we might be facing felony charges.
If you’ve been criminally charged for criminal mischief (vandalism), there are many defenses available to you, but you’ll need an excellent criminal attorney on your side to take advantage of them.