Being charged with vandalism or graffiti may sound like a small-stakes situation, but without an aggressive criminal mischief attorney who has experience defending property crimes, those who are accused could end up facing serious consequences. If you or a loved one has been charged with criminal mischief, you need to start building your case now. 

What comes to mind when you think of graffiti and vandalism? A nuisance? Certainly. Harmless act of youthful expression? Occasionally. Life-altering mistake? Unfortunately, yes.

Uncalculated acts not meant to harm anyone can turn into felonies in Texas, depending on the nature and amount of damage incurred by the criminal mischief. These cases can be long, complicated, and have permanent consequences for those accused, who are often young people that have yet to be subjected to the criminal justice system.  

If you or a loved one has been charged with criminal mischief, call the trial attorneys at Thiessen Law Firm. They don’t just build a case and hope that it sticks — they go to trial and defend your freedom. 

What is criminal mischief in Texas?

According to Texas Penal Code §28.03, a person commits an offense if, without the effective consent of the owner they:

  • intentionally or knowingly damage or destroy the personal property of the owner;
  • intentionally or knowingly tampers with the personal property of the owner and causes pecuniary loss or substantial inconvenience to the owner or a third person;  or
  • intentionally or knowingly makes markings, including inscriptions, slogans, drawings, or paintings, on the personal property of the owner.

A common form of criminal mischief other than vandalism or graffiti is tampering with public utilities. Diverting or impairing public communications, water, power, or gas is automatically a felony in Texas. If homeowners knowingly benefit from diverted water, power, or gas, they can be charged with a felony — even if they were not the ones who tampered with the meter or utility. 

How do you prove criminal mischief in Texas? If the prosecution hopes to convict someone of criminal mischief, vandalism, or graffiti, it must be proved that the act causing damage was done knowingly, intentionally, and without the consent of the owner. 

Punishments for criminal mischief in Texas

If it is proved that you damaged the property of another person, the charges and punishments will be based on the type and amount of damage.

Amount of pecuniary lossChargeFinesJail time
<$100Class C misdemeanorUp to $500N/A
$100 – $750Class B misdemeanorUp to $2,000Up to 180 days
$750 – $2,500Class A misdemeanorUp to $4,000Up to 1 year
$2,500 – $30,000State jail felonyUp to $10,000180 days – 2 years
$30,000 – $150,000Third-degree felonyUp to $10,0002 years – 10 years
$150,000 – $300,000Second-degree felonyUp to $10,0002 years – 20 years
>$300,000First-degree felonyUp to $10,0005 years – life in prison

There are exceptions to these rules, and charges can be increased to a felony regardless of dollar amount if the damage is caused by a firearm, to public utility, game, or cattle. The list of aggravating factors is long, and there are many stipulations

Whether facing a misdemeanor or felony, a conviction for criminal mischief is not something to be taken lightly. Property crime offenses will show up on Texas background checks for jobs, housing, and more. The only way to ensure that charges will not show up on a background check is to have the charges dropped, which takes a good lawyer and a good bit of luck — even for the not-guilty.

What can my Houston criminal mischief attorney do?

You’re not going to avoid conviction on your own. Regardless of circumstances or guilt, you need an attorney with experience defending property crimes if you want to avoid a guilty verdict, whether you’re facing a First-degree felony or a Class B misdemeanor in Texas.

Your attorney will likely try to prove that the damage to the property of another person was not done knowingly or with intent, or attempt to get the charges reduced for young, first-time offenders. They can also protest the facts of the case, argue that identity was not sufficiently established, or contest the value of the alleged damages. 

The bottom line is that if you have any hope of getting your case dismissed, or qualifying for case sealing or expungement in Texas, you need to hire the right attorney.

Busted? Call the criminal mischief attorneys at Thiessen Law Firm for help

If you or a loved one has been arrested on vandalism or graffiti charges, call the criminal mischief attorneys at Thiessen Law Firm. The attorneys at Thiessen are trial-tested — their defense doesn’t stop when cases look open-and-shut. 

Don’t let one bad decision change the trajectory of your or your loved one’s life. Hire an experienced attorney that you can trust by calling Thiessen Law Firm today at 713-864-9000 or contacting us online for a free case evaluation.

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Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.