Mischief to Property
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.
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.