Some criminal offense may seem relatively minor to Pittsburgh residents. Some may not even seem like crimes at all. This is particularly true when young adults vandalize the property of another. It can be easy to write these instances off as young people making mistakes, but Pennsylvania law views it as a punishable offense. This means that individuals can find themselves facing the possibility of much harsher penalties than they ever envisioned.
Under Pennsylvania law, vandalism is generally classified as criminal mischief. This category of criminal offenses includes damaging mailboxes, spray painting someone's property or even lighting off a smoke bomb in a school. Even property damage that is negligently caused by fire can classify as criminal mischief. When criminal mischief involves a church or a school, though, the penalties can be heightened. The same holds true when agricultural property is harmed.
So what kind of penalties are handed down for criminal mischief convictions? It typically depends on the value of the property that is damaged. Property loss of less than $500, for example, can result in 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $250. If property damage exceeds $5,000, though, then an individual can be hit with penalties consistent with a third degree felony conviction, which includes up to seven years of incarceration and up to $15,000 in fines.
As one can see, there are some pretty serious penalties associated with criminal mischief. Therefore, when an individual is accused of this crime, whether for spray painting graffiti on the property of another or knocking over a mailbox, it is wise to consider the best criminal defense options available. To learn more about how to develop strong legal arguments in support of one of these defenses, accused individuals may want to speak with an experienced attorney.