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Mischief to Property

The Charge

Under s. 430 of the Criminal Code, a person is guilty of mischief if they willfully:

  • Destroy or damage property; or
  • Render property dangerous, inoperative or ineffective; or they
  • Interfere with another person’s use, enjoyment or operation of property.

This offence is meant to protect property that belongs to others. Generally, unless there ae aggravating factors present, a conviction for mischief of property valued at over $5000 will subject the accused to being prosecuted by indictment with a maximum jail sentence of two years. If the property is valued at under $5000, the accused can be found guilty of a summary offence and is liable to imprisonment for up to two years jail, less a day. There is no mandatory minimum sentence that is required.

The Code sets out situations where mischief to property has aggravating aspects, which will call for more serious penalties. Where actual danger to life is created by the mischief, the accused, on conviction, is subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Where the mischief offence is motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, gender identity, or disability, the accused is subject to being prosecuted by indictment with a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail.

The Investigation

To prove a mischief charge, police must gather evidence which includes establishing that the property in question belongs to a person other than the suspect. Additionally, police will need to prove that the damage was caused willfully by the suspect i.e., that they intentionally caused the damage. Typical mischief charges include acts such as causing intentional damage to a vehicle by striking it, kicking it, or “keying” it. Mischief also includes acts such as applying graffiti to public or private property or damaging the property of a spouse or other person in a moment of anger.

Because a mischief to property conviction requires intention or at least recklessness, police will typically seek to obtain a confession from their suspect in order to strengthen their case. As experienced property crime lawyers, we are able to help by providing advice to our clients regarding their rights under the Charter, including their right to remain silent.

Recent Successes

R. vs. V.B. – Vancouver Provincial Court

.Charges: Assault; Uttering Threats (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information to Crown counsel on our client's behalf which resulted in Crown deciding to enterr a stay of proceedings on both charges. Stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. T.C.C. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Assault of a Peace Officer.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for our client to be granted a discharge for his actions in spitting in the face of an RCMP officer at the Vancouver Airport.
Result: Mr. Gauthier presented information to the Court and after hearing his submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal record.

R. vs. F.S. – North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Theft Under $5000.
Issue: Whether Crown could prove the number and value of the electronic devices they alleged our client stole from his workplace.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to allege that the theft involved  only 7 devices worth only $1000. After hearing Mr. Mines submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. M. G. – Sechelt RCMP investigation

Charges: Criminal harassment; Distributing intimate images without consent.
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove the circumstantial evidence they sought to rely on and whether jail was the  appropriate sentence.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to convince Crown counsel to not rely on much of the aggravating evidence and, on our client's guilty plea to not seek a jail sentence. After hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a suspended sentence with probation. No jail.

R. vs. E.K. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Criminal harassment; Distributing intimate images without consent.
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove the circumstantial evidence they sought to rely on and whether jail was the  appropriate sentence.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to convince Crown counsel to not rely on much of the aggravating evidence and, on our client's guilty plea to not seek a jail sentence. After hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a suspended sentence with probation. No jail.

R. vs. K.L. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issues: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction and whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide information to Crown counsel that resulted in Crown electing to stay the proceedings and to end the prosecution. No criminal record.

R. vs. H.S. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault with a weapon.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide information to Crown counsel which resulted in Crown deciding to end the prosecution not approve any charges.  No criminal record.

R. vs. J.L. – UBC RCMP Investigation

Charges: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of obtaining a criminal conviction and whether it was in the public interest for police to recommend charges.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information to police whic resulted in police closing their investigation. No charges recommended. No criminal record.

R. vs. T.A. – West Shore RCMP investigation

Charge: Assault (Domestic).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the Crown to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information to Crown Counsel that convinced them not to approve charges against the client. No criminal prosecution. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.S. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Sexual Assault (reduced to common assault.)
Issue: Whether Crown counsel could prove that our client touched the complainant for a sexual purpose.
Result: Mr. Mines was able tp persuade Crown counsel that our client did not intend to touch the complainant in a sexual manner. The Crown agreed to proceed on the lesser charge of common assault and, after hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Judge granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction. No jail. No sex offender registry.

R. vs. N.R. – Sechelt Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether it was in the pubic interest for our client to be sentenced to a conditional discharge for this offence which resulted in a serious facial cut to the complainant.

R. vs. S.K. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Assault with a Weapon, Breach of a Release Order.
Issue: Whether our client could be released on bail given Crown's concerns for his willingness to attend court and potential to commit further offences.
Result: Mr. Johnston was able to persuade the Judge to release our client on the least onerous conditions.

The Defence

Identification

To prove a mischief charge, the Crown must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the identity of the accused. In many circumstances, absent evidence from an eyewitness that is familiar to the accused, proving identity can be more difficult. As experienced defence lawyers, we understand the issues that can arise at trial regarding the frailties of eyewitness identification. For example, it is often very difficult for a person who has only caught a fleeting glimpse of a suspect to be able to identify them with certainty in the aftermath of the incident. In appropriate cases, we will challenge the Crown’s identification evidence, whether its source is from a witness or from forensic sources, such as fingerprints, shoeprints, video, photographs, or DNA.

We are always pleased when clients contact us in the early stages of being charged with a mischief offence. This is because, absent aggravating factors, we can offer these clients the very best potential outcome – the potential of persuading Crown counsel to not approve any charge at all. Depending on the circumstances of the offence and our client, the case may be dealt with extra judicially so that, in the result, there is no conviction and no criminal record.

Alternative Measures

In appropriate cases, we will obtain a full background briefing from our client and provide submissions to Crown counsel requesting that, rather than proceeding with a criminal prosecution, they allow our client into the Alternative Measures Program, which is, literally, an alternative to the court system. Where a person takes responsibility for a relatively minor criminal act, they may be able to avoid a criminal record by agreeing to complete restorative justice conditions such as community work service. As experienced defence lawyers, we are able to make “without prejudice” requests to Crown counsel to have our clients accepted into the Alternative Measures Program in order to avoid a criminal record.

Start with a free consultation.

If you are being investigated by police or if you’ve been charged with a criminal or driving offence, don’t face the problem alone. Being accused of an offence is stressful. The prospects of a criminal record or jail sentence can be daunting. Even if you think there is no defence, we may be able to help. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our Vancouver lawyers, contact us now.