Mischief as a criminal offence in British Columbia refers to the reckless or wilful destruction of another’s property. It also involves interference with another’s property. Mischief charges are usually laid following acts of vandalism. It is crucial you do not go by the literal meaning of the word ‘mischief’. The term may make one feel the offence is not serious.
However, mischief is considered a grave criminal offence in Canada and without the right defence it can lead to fines, criminal records, and probation. In certain instances, it can also lead to time spent in jail. Calling a Surrey criminal defence lawyer with extensive experience in fighting mischief charges can help you navigate a complicated court process that could take months and years to resolve.
Mr. Melville can help you fight these mischief charges. Here is what you need to know if you are or may be charged with mischief in British Columbia:
Legal Definition of Mischief
Section 430 of the Criminal Code defines mischief as occurring when a person:
- renders a property useless, dangerous, ineffective, or inoperative
- alters or destroys a property
- interrupts, obstructs, or interferes with the lawful enjoyment, use or operation of any property
- interrupts, obstructs, or interferes with another person lawfully using, enjoying, or operating the property
You can be proven guilty of committing criminal mischief if the Crown prosecutor can successfully prove that you have committed any of the above-mentioned acts.
The prosecutor must prove the following without doubt for you to be guilty of mischief:
- that you committed the offence
- that the property you destroyed or interfered with did not belong to you
- that you interfered with the property in a tangible way or real damage was done to the property
- state of the property before the offence
It is important to understand that the extent of damage is not a concern. You can be convicted of committing criminal mischief if there was tangible harm done to the property and the Crown demonstrates all elements of it.
In certain cases, you can still be convicted of mischief even if there was no real damage done. The Crown will need to prove that you interfered with the normal enjoyment and use of another’s property.
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Repercussions of a Mischief Conviction
Mischief is referred to as a criminal offence under Section 430 and can lead to a criminal record and severe penalties. There are several repercussions to being convicted of mischief. Some of these include job loss, trouble with immigration, probation, fines, possible imprisonment, and problems with citizenship and permanent residence applications.
Mischief results in a criminal record that is stored in the national CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre) database. You may be deemed ineligible for certain opportunities, jobs, and professions. You can be denied entry into other countries, including United States. Anyone can access the national CPIC database to check your record. This can result in media or public embarrassment. You may have to live with the social stigma of having a criminal record.
The impact of criminal mischief conviction on the freedom, livelihood, and future opportunities of individuals without criminal histories can be tremendous.
Defence for Mischief
The best defence for mischief is to get the Crown to withdraw or drop mischief charges whether they are under or over $5,000. The best possible outcome is for the Crown prosecutor to withdraw all charges. This means you will not receive a criminal record and conviction.
In certain cases, we can negotiate with the Crown prosecutor to drop all mischief charges. This will involve the accused to undertake certain charges, such as:
- agreeing to enter a peace bond
- make charitable donations
- make a restitution payment
- write an apology letter
- agree to undergo counselling
It is important to understand that the crown prosecutor does not always drop charges. It is at the discretion of the prosecutor to pursue a conviction or not. There are several factors examined by the Crown while determining a course of action. They will investigate your criminal history and check if there are any other charges pending. Your relationship with the victim or property owner is also a factor.
Other factors involve the seriousness or the nature of the offence, presence of intoxicants, and whether you admit full responsibility or not. The right criminal lawyer can negotiate your case and persuade the Crown prosecutor to drop all mischief charges. Some prosecutors are more amenable than others. Having an experienced criminal lawyer who knows how different prosecutors react can increase the likelihood of attaining a favourable outcome.
If you are charged with or believe you may be charged, calling a mischief defence lawyer in Surrey could help your case. Give Mr. Melville a call today at 604-265-7020 to schedule a free initial consultation to understand your options.