Home > It's A Legal Matter > Mischief


By Jeff Terrill

Fort Wayne Reader


Sometimes, people engage in a bit of mischief, acts that are usually defined as irritating or annoying. Webster’s Dictionary lists words such as “devilishness” and “rascality” as synonyms for mischief. Teachers and parents see a lot of mischief in the classroom and at home. Legally, mischievousness might get a person in trouble, but not all acts of mischief are criminal.

Under Indiana law, a person who recklessly, knowingly or intentionally damages or defaces property of another without that person’s consent commits the offense of criminal mischief, a Class B misdemeanor. Any damage valued at 1 cent or more could be criminal. If the property damage or financial loss is between $250 and $2500, the crime turns into a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable up to one year in jail. The crime is also a Class A misdemeanor if the damage is to a moving vehicle, cemetery, public record, police animal, railroad property, or if the damage results in substantial interruption of a scientific research center or food processing plant. A person convicted of criminal mischief involving the use of graffiti can also have his license suspended up to one year.

If the damages are valued at $2500 or more, a person could be charged with a Class D felony. A Class D felony is punishable up to three years in prison.

A person who knowingly damages property belonging to a church or community center commits criminal recklessness as a Class C felony if the amount of damage is at least $2500. A person could get eight years in prison for a Class C felony.

Spray-painting the side of someone’s building, keying the ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend’s car, or throwing a rock through the window of a detached garage are all acts of criminal mischief. The guy who loses his cool and throws the remote at his buddy’s flat screen commits the offense of criminal recklessness if there is any damage to either the TV or to the remote control. If the TV is valued at $2500 or above, then the guy could be looking at a Class D felony charge. If the damaged TV belonged to a church or community center, then the state could charge the offense as a Class C felony.

So, in Indiana, there’s mischievous conduct and there’s criminal mischief. One type of mischief might be legal, while another type could be illegal.

Most people have been on each side of a good prank at some point in their lives. My guess is those people neither considered themselves criminals nor crime victims. A good-natured prank might be different than an intentional destruction or defacement of someone else’s property. Is the college student who wakes up after a long night of festivities and realizes his friends have drawn on his shirt with a permanent marker the victim of criminal mischief? The shirt is damaged. What about the homeowner whose trees get blanketed with toilet paper? The landscaping has been defaced.

Definitely victims of rascality, but maybe not victims of a crime.


Jeff Terrill is a partner/shareholder with the law firm of Arnold Terrill Anzini, P.C. Mr. Terrill represents clients accused of crimes throughout northeast Indiana. You can contact Mr. Terrill with any questions or comments at his office at 260.420.7777 or via email at jterrill@fortwaynedefense.com. Learn more about his firm at www.fortwaynedefense.com. _This article expressed opinions and observations of the author, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. Please consult a qualified attorney with any legal questions or issues you might have. Thank you.

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