Des Moines Criminal Mischief Defense Lawyer
Criminal mischief is sometimes called "vandalism." It can be a misdemeanor or a felony. Conviction can impact your employment -- people tend to assume vandals are inclined to destroy things in a petty or vengeful mood. If you're accused of criminal mischief, particularly of felony vandalism, you need an Iowa criminal mischief lawyer to help you assess your options.
Criminal Mischief in Iowa
Iowa Code Chapter 716 is about criminal mischief.
Damaging, defacing, altering, or destroying property is criminal mischief.
In order for it to be a crime, you have to intend to do the damage.
If it's your own property or you had the right to act, it isn't criminal mischief. If you vandalize more than one piece of property around the same place or time, the State might allege that all of those acts were part of a single scheme, plan, or conspiracy.
If they do that, they can aggregate the value of the property and accuse you of a more serious crime than they could if each damaged object was considered in isolation.
Criminal Mischief in the First Degree
It's first degree criminal mischief if:
- It costs more than $10,000 to fix what you broke.
- You intended to mess up (or did mess up) gas, electricity, phone service, mail, or a public utility (etc.) in a way that caused an interruption in service to the public.
Criminal mischief in the first degree is a class C felony. If convicted, you could face up to ten years in prison and will be fined $1,370 - $13,660 (July 15, 2020) if you're convicted of first degree criminal mischief.
Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree
If it costs more than $1500 but less than $10,000 to fix what you broke, it's second degree criminal mischief.
Criminal mischief in the second degree is a class D felony. You could face up to five years in prison and will be fined $1,025 - $10,245 (July 15, 2020) if you're convicted of second degree criminal mischief.
Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree
It's third degree criminal mischief if:
- It costs more than $750 but less than $1500 to fix what you broke
- What you damaged is a deed, will, commercial paper, civil or criminal process, or another instrument with legal effect
- You've messed up a light, signal, obstruction, barricade, or guard that was put up to enclose an unsafe place or to alert people to a dangerous condition
- You intentionally disinterred human remains from a burial site
- You intentionally disinterred human remains with "state and national significance person intentionally disinters human remains that have state and national significance from an historical or scientific standpoint for the inspiration and benefit of the United States without the permission of the state archaeologist"
- The property you messed up was a credit card payment processing device
Criminal mischief in the third degree is an aggravated misdemeanor. You could face up to two years in prison and will be fined $855 - $8,540 (July 15, 2020) if you're convicted of third degree criminal mischief.
Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree
It's fourth degree criminal mischief if:
- It costs more than $300 but not more than $750 to fix what you broke.
- You intentionally messed with a monument a land surveyor placed to designate a boundary.
- You intentionally messed with a monument used to determine spatial location relative to the plane coordinate system or precise elevation datum.
Criminal mischief in the fourth degree is a serious misdemeanor. You could face up to a year in jail and will be fined $430 - $2,560 (July 15, 2020) if you're convicted of fourth degree criminal mischief.
Criminal Mischief in the Fifth Degree
If it's criminal mischief but it isn't First, Second, Third, or Fourth Degree Criminal Mischief, it's fifth degree criminal mischief. (No, really, that's how they define it in 716.6.)
Criminal mischief in the fifth degree is a simple misdemeanor. You could face up to thirty days in jail and will be fined $105-$855(July 15, 2020) if you're convicted of fifth degree criminal mischief.
Criminal Mischief Enhancements
Habitual Offender Enhancement for Criminal Mischief
Habitual offender enhancements under Iowa Code 902.8 can apply if you're convicted of First or Second Degree Criminal Mischief, which are class C and D felonies, respectively.
If you've been convicted of a felony two or more times before, you're considered a habitual offender. If you're convicted of a C felony or D felony as a habitual offender, you will have to serve at least three years before being eligible for parole.
Hate Crime Enhancement for Criminal Mischief
If you commit criminal mischief in the third, fourth, or fifth degree and do so in a way which makes it also a hate crime, your offense will be classified and punished as an offense one degree higher than the underlying offense.
So, for example, if you're convicted of what would usually be criminal mischief in the third degree, but you did the crime because you were mad at the victim for being gay, then you'll be convicted of and punished for a class D felony instead of for an aggravated misdemeanor.
The Des Moines Register wrote about one locally-well-known example of this criminal mischief hate crime enhancement. In the Martinez case out of Story County, a man got sentenced to 16 years for third-degree arson in violation of individual rights -- hate crime, third degree harassment, and reckless use of fire as a habitual offender. People seemed surprised that you could get that much time for burning a piece of fabric, but he had a hate crime enhancement and a habitual offender enhancement; those really do add up.