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What if you are arrested for allegations of criminal mischief?

In Pennsylvania, there are certain legal terms that are obvious and easy to understand when a person is arrested and faces a criminal charge. For example, if a person is arrested for theft, the charge is relatively self-explanatory. However, other charges can be more confusing as to what it specifically entails. An example of this is "criminal mischief." There are many acts that will lead to criminal mischief charges and those who are facing these allegations must know what they are since this is a vital part of formulating a strong defense and potentially avoiding the penalties for a conviction.

The following will lead to a charge of criminal mischief: if there is damage to another person's tangible property and it is done on purpose, via recklessness or negligence by using explosives, fire or in other dangerous ways; there is tampering with another's tangible property and it endangers the person or the property and it is done in an intentional or reckless way; if there is an intentional or reckless attempt to lead to another suffering financial loss by issuing a threat or deceiving them; if tangible property is defaced or damaged by putting graffiti on it; if there is intentional damage to real or personal property; or if there is an intentional defacing of property by using a paintball gun.

If the financial loss goes beyond $5,000, it will be a third-degree felony. It is also a third-degree felony if the act results in interruptions of public communication, water supply, power, gas or transportation. It will be a second-degree misdemeanor if the person causes financial loss that goes beyond $1,000. If it goes beyond $500, it will be a third-degree misdemeanor. If the damage is beyond $150 and it is because of graffiti, it is also a third-degree misdemeanor. In other cases, it will be a summary offense. Regarding graffiti, it means words, images, designs or marks that are placed on the property in any way, such as scratching, drawing or painting.

It is not uncommon for people to take part in what they believe are "pranks" or decide to place graffiti on walls, public or private. They might be under the impression that it is harmless and will not result in a criminal charge. They are wrong. Being arrested for criminal mischief can lead to jail time, fines and other penalties for these state charges.

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