Utah Criminal Defense

Criminal Mischief Defense Lawyer

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Utah’s Criminal Mischief laws are found in Utah Code Ann. 76-1-106 (2018) and are broadly written. It encompasses destroying someone else’s property to recklessly shooting objects at passing cars.

The Utah Criminal Mischief Code Section reads:

(2) A person commits criminal mischief if the person:

(a) under circumstances not amounting to arson, damages or destroys property with the intention of defrauding an insurer;

(b) intentionally and unlawfully tampers with the property of another and as a result:

(i) recklessly endangers:

(A) human life; or

(B) human health or safety; or

(ii) recklessly causes or threatens a substantial interruption or impairment of any critical infrastructure;

(c) intentionally damages, defaces, or destroys the property of another; or

(d) recklessly or willfully shoots or propels a missile or other object at or against a motor vehicle, bus, airplane, boat, locomotive, train, railway car, or caboose, whether moving or standing.

Utah Criminal Mischief Defense Law Firm

Utah Criminal Mischief Defense Attorney Jake Gunter

Classic Utah Criminal Mischief.

Classic Utah Criminal Mischief involves destroying someone else’s property. This often is charged in relation to a domestic violence incident where you throw someone’s phone or break a TV or door. Other less common types of Utah Criminal Mischief involve shooting arrows at passing cars or defrauding insurance companies.

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Grades of Utah Criminal Mischief Penalties.

Utah grades the severity of Criminal Mischief based upon how much damage you caused.

Example: You are charged in the Provo District Court with a Third Degree Felony—Criminal Mischief because you allegedly caused $1,500 but less than $5,000 in property damage. The Provo Police Department allege you vandalized a car causing damage. The valuation of the damage determines how you are charged and with what grade of Criminal Mischief.

Utah’s money damage thresholds for Criminal Mischief are as follows:

Second degree felony if the actor’s conduct causes or is intended to cause pecuniary loss equal to or in excess of $5,000 in value;

Third degree felony if the actor’s conduct causes or is intended to cause pecuniary loss equal to or in excess of $1,500 but is less than $5,000 in value;

Class A Misdemeanor if the actor’s conduct causes or is intended to cause pecuniary loss equal to or in excess of $500 but is less than $1,500 in value; and

Class B Misdemeanor if the actor’s conduct causes or is intended to cause pecuniary loss less than $500 in value. Utah Code Ann. 76-1-106(3) (2018).

Misdemeanor Criminal Mischief Defense Lawyer

Charged with a Utah Felony Criminal Mischief? We can help.

Aggregating Several Acts of Criminal Mischief to Charge a Felony.

The prosecution cannot combine several distinct and different alleged acts of Criminal Mischief to meet a particular charging threshold. For example, if three different cars were vandalized in the same parking lot, owned by three different people, each causing just over $500 in damage, the prosecutor could not combine all three cars and charge one Third Degree Felony. Instead the property charge would be three different Class A Misdemeanors, not one Third Degree Criminal Mischief Felony.

Your Utah Criminal Mischief defense attorney should be on the lookout for improper aggregation of damages to meet charging thresholds.

How is Value Determined under Utah’s Criminal Mischief Laws?

VALUE is defined under the Criminal Mischief code provisions to mean:

In determining the value of damages and thus the appropriate criminal classification, it will be the lesser of the cost to fix or replace the damaged property.

Example: The Orem Police Department alleged you caused $5,300 in property damage to a car by putting oil in the gas tank, exploding the engine. The cost to replace the engine is around $5,300, but the fair market value of the car is $2,500. In this scenario, the prosecuting attorney would charge this matter as a Third Degree Felony because the fair market value is less than the costs to fix it. $2,500 fair market value, versus $5,300 to fix.

Expert Witnesses on Valuation and Causation.

A good Utah Criminal Mischief defense lawyer will always be reviewing to see if the prosecutor valued the property correctly and that the damage was actually caused by the alleged wrongful act(s).

In the car damage example, you may consider hiring a used car salesman to assess the value of the used car to ensure that that fair market value is not less than the cost to repair. Further, you may need a mechanic to inspect the car to ensure there was not pre-existing damage or damages claimed that were not caused by the alleged misconduct.

Expert witnesses can be used to value most any property if there is a dispute regarding valuation. It could be corn crops, cars, used computers, etc.

NO Enhanceability of Utah Criminal Mischief.

Unlike DUIs, Domestic Violence, Drug Possession, Utah’s Criminal Mischief laws are not enhanceable. Meaning, your second and third conviction of Criminal Mischief does not enhance the criminal classification up a grade. Instead, the Criminal Mischief laws grades the severity based on the amount of damage done.

Juvenile criminal mischief defense attorney

Juveniles can also be charged with criminal mischief.

Examples of Utah Criminal Mischief.

Example 1. The Provo Police Department arrests you for Domestic Violence and Criminal Mischief. The underlying facts are that you slapped your girlfriend’s wrist, knocking her phone to the ground, causing less than $500 in damage. You will be charged with Criminal Mischief, a Class B Misdemeanor, because the damage was less than $500. Further, you will be charged with Domestic Violence, a Class B Misdemeanor, assuming you don’t have any priors.

Example 2. The Orem Police Department comes to your home and cites you for keying a car, causing over $1,500 in property damage to the car. Allegedly, your ex-boyfriend saw you key his car and reported the matter to the Orem Police. Subsequently, the ex-boyfriend gets a repair estimate from his best buddy at the local collision repair facility. The damages are valued at $1,570—just enough for a Third Degree Felony File.

In this situation, you may want to hire your own collision repair expert to determine if the damages and costs to repair are really $1,570, rather than $1,200, which would be under the Third Degree Felony threshold.

Utah Criminal Mischief Defense Attorney Jake Gunter

Provo Orem Criminal Defense Attorney Jake Gunter offers free consults and flexible payments plans.

Is the lawyer you are about to call have 20 plus jury trials? Experience matters in criminal defense. Contact Jake today!

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