Mischief Lawyer Toronto
How to Defend Mischief Charges
This article is a brief and general overview about criminal mischief charges in Toronto, Ontario including mischief under $5000 and mischief over $5000 (s.430 of the Criminal Code of Canada). Those looking for advice on mischief charges should consult a criminal lawyer. For those seeking information related to mischief arising from a domestic dispute follow this link.
Frequently asked questions about mischief charges in Toronto, Ontario:
- What is mischief?
- What is the difference between a charge of mischief under $5,000 and mischief over $5,000?
- What if the damage was caused accidentally?
- Can I be convicted of mischief for damaging my own property?
- Will I have a criminal record for intentionally damaging somebody’s property?
- What are the consequences of a mischief conviction?
The definition of mischief is found in the Criminal Code at section 430. Generally mischief occurs when a person does any of the following:
(a) destroys or alters property;
(b) renders property dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective;
(c) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property; or
(d) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.
If the value of the damaged item (not the value of the damage itself) exceeds $5,000 dollars, the Crown Attorney may seek an increased punishment of up to ten years in jail. Otherwise, the charge of mischief carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail. It is important to note that most mischief convictions will not result in any jail time.
It is a requirement of the Criminal Code that the person who committed mischief acted “willfully”. An unintentional or accidental act will not meet the standard of willfully damaging property sufficient to trigger criminal consequences.
In law, a person may damage something that is wholly owned by them as long as there exists no intent to defraud. This is not considered mischief as the charge relates specifically to damage of property owned wholly or in part by someone other than the person causing the damage.
In a domestic context, a person may attract criminal liability for mischief if they have damaged property jointly owned by both spouses. However, a person who believes that he or she had the legal right to damage property as a result of a mistaken belief in sole ownership is not guilty of mischief in respect of damage to that property.
Depending on the property damaged, the circumstances of the offender and the offence alleged, it may be possibly to negotiate with the Crown to withdraw a criminal charge of mischief in exchange for reimbursing the victim for the damage caused (this is called “restitution”).
Even if the Crown Attorney is not willing to withdraw the charge, paying restitution will act as a significant mitigating factor at the time of sentencing before the judge.
The consequences of a mischief can include:
- job loss
- fines, probation, and possible imprisonment
- problems with immigration, permanent residence, and citizenship applications
- being deemed ineligible for certain professions, jobs, and opportunities
- being denied entry into the United States or other countries
- living with the social stigma of a criminal record
- risk of the conviction being reported publicly in the media
- obtaining a criminal record that will be stored and accessible in the national CPIC database
For individuals without criminal histories, the effect of a criminal mischief conviction on their livelihood, freedom, and future opportunities in life can be tremendous.
It is important to remember that every allegation of mischief is a fact specific inquiry. Consulting a lawyer will assist you with identifying potential defences to this type of allegation. Call Daniel Brown at (416) 297-7200 for a consultation about your case.