Juvenile Law: Understanding Criminal Mischief

Teenagers often make poor decisions, and destroying another person’s property is one of them. From spray painting an overpass to slashing tires, damaging private property is a serious offense that can jeopardize your child’s future. If your child has been arrested and charged with criminal mischief, your first step should be to contact an experienced Pennsylvania juvenile lawyer. A juvenile law attorney well-versed in handling these types of cases will try to protect your child’s future by putting together a strategy to fight such serious charges.

What Is Criminal Mischief ?

Pennsylvania Code § 18-3304 defines the crime of criminal mischief as intentionally or recklessly damaging someone else’s property. The most common types of criminal mischief charges stem from:

  • Spray painting graffiti
  • Defacing property with a paintball gun
  • Damaging property through fire or explosion
  • Breaking property or possessions
  • “Egging” a house or car
  • Breaking security lighting or locks
  • Slashing tires or keying cars
  • Flooding a home or school property

Penalties for Criminal Mischief

Juvenile Law Attorney O'MearaMany adults believe that criminal mischief is simply “child’s play” and that the severity of these types of crimes is negligible. Nothing could be farther from the truth, however. Underage minors who are arrested for defacing and/or destroying property face stiff penalties that could alter the course of their future.

The charges and penalties your child will face largely depend on the value of the damage caused. Unlike cases involving people who are over the age of 18 and legally considered “adults,” juvenile cases are handled in juvenile court.  A range of penalties can be assessed, including:

  • Restitution – The courts will usually order the juvenile and their family to pay restitution to the property owner so that they can repair or replace whatever was damaged.
  • Fines – In many cases, the courts will also impose a fine for acts of juvenile criminal mischief. These fines can be hefty, depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime.
  • Probation – The courts can also order a juvenile to serve probation after an act of criminal mischief. This probation can last a year or more depending on the severity of the crime and criminal history of the minor. During this time, juveniles are expected to meet certain requirements, including staying in school, meeting with counselors, and avoiding further arrest.
  • Diversion – Diversion is similar to probation. The main difference is that the prosecutor will drop all charges against the juvenile once the diversion program has been completed. This option is typically only available to first-time offenders.
  • Detention – Repeat juvenile offenders may be ordered to a juvenile detention center. The length of stay, as well as detention, will depend largely on the juvenile’s history and the severity of their crime. Detention can either be full-time detention, weekend detention, or an actual transfer into a juvenile home.

Contact Our Pennsylvania Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyers Today

When your child is arrested and charged with a crime, it is important to recognize the gravity of the situation and how it could affect their future. The steps you take today could have a significant impact on fighting these charges tomorrow. If your underage son or daughter was recently arrested in Delaware County, Chester County or anywhere else in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, please contact the Law Offices of Steven F. O’Meara at (610) 565-9200 to schedule a free consultation. We can help you fight these serious charges and protect their future.