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 of 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.
Des Moines Vandalism Lawyers
Remember that in order to convict you, the prosecutors have to prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt — including the intent or “mens rea” element.
At Clark and Sears Law, PLLC, we defend the rights and liberties of good people who are accused of bad things. An Iowa arson lawyer might be able to find you a viable path to reasonable doubt, thus saving you from paying thousands in fines and restitution and spending time locked up away from your family.
Get out of trouble and get back to life. Call Clark and Sears Law, PLLC now at (515) 491 6128 to set up a free consultation. A receptionist is available 24/7 to take your call.
The criminal defense lawyers at Clark and Sears Law, PLLC, are based in the city of Des Moines and in Ankeny and represent defendants throughout Polk County and the rest of Iowa.
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 $1000-$10,000 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 $750-$7500 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 $625 – $6250 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 $315 – $1875 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 $65-$625 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.
Penalties for Iowa Vandalism
If you’re convicted of vandalism in Iowa, you’re facing fines and/or jail time for an offense somewhere between a simple misdemeanor and a class C felony.
- Simple misdemeanor for 5th degree criminal mischief. Up to 30 days in jail. Fine of $65-$625.
- Serious misdemeanor for 4th degree criminal mischief. Up to 1 year in jail. Fine of $315 – $1875.
- Aggravated misdemeanor for 3rd degree criminal mischief. Up to 2 years in prison. Fine of $625 – $6250
- Class D Felony for 2nd degree criminal mischief. Up to 5 years in prison. Fine of $750-$7500.
- Class C Felony for 1st degree criminal mischief. Up to 10 years in prison. Fine of $1000-$10,000
You will have to pay an additional 35% surcharge on any fine
If you get a deferred judgment instead of a conviction, you will pay a civil penalty instead of a fine. Civil penalties in the same amounts as criminal fines — for instance, if you get a deferred judgment on a criminal mischief in the 5th degree, you could get a civil penalty of $65 instead of getting a criminal fine for $65. The difference is that there’s no additional 35% surcharge for civil penalties.
If you are placed on probation, there will be a $300 probation supervision fee.
You should expect to pay restitution for any damages you cause.
The county attorney might ask for the judge to order you to perform community service hours. You may be required to pay a placement fee to be placed into a local community service program.
You need to talk to city of West Des Moines vandalism lawyers if you’re facing criminal charges.
If you’re convicted of a crime causing injury or property damage in Iowa, you probably owe victim restitution.
The Court will establish a plan of restitution.
You probably already know that if you are convicted of vandalism, you will have to repay the person whose property you injured. You may be surprised to find out that you may also have to pay fines, civil penalties, and surcharges. Additionally, you may have to:
- Reimburse the crime victim restitution program.
- Contribute funds to a local anticrime organization that helped the police in your case.
- Pay court costs and correctional fees.
- Pay court-appointed attorney fees, including the expense of a public defender.
- Perform public service or community service if you can’t reasonably pay all or part of the court costs
Your payments have to go to the victims’ restitution order first, before your payments count toward fines, penalties, surcharges, crime victime compensation program reimbursement, public agency reimbursement, court costs, correctional fees, court-appointed attorney fees, expenses of a public defender, or contributions to local anti-crime organizations.
If the court orders you to pay restitution, your victim may file a restitution lien. Even though your victim will be granted a right to victim restitution for what your crime cost them, that victim restitution doesn’t prevent them from being able to sue you for damages in a separate civil action.
Defenses to Iowa City Vandalism
The government’s lawyer has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you’re guilty of all elements of criminal mischief. If they can’t do that for even one element, you get acquitted. If you’re acquitted, you’re not guilty. If you’re not guilty, you go home. (So long as you aren’t convicted of other offenses, anyway.)
Some possible vandalism defenses include:
Did the property you owned or endangered belong to you?
As long as you aren’t committing any other crimes, you can break or perform weird spray paint art on your own stuff.
Did the property owner consent to your acts? As long as you aren’t breaking other laws, you can take a sledgehammer to your neighbor’s watermelons if he gives you permission.
If your evil twin brother was the arsonist, you shouldn’t be convicted of his offense.
If you can prove that you were somewhere else, then you couldn’t have committed the crime.
If your deranged or diseased mental condition prevents you from knowing the nature or quality of your acts, you are insane. Similarly, if your deranged or diseased mental state makes you incapable of distinguishing right from wrong, you are considered legally insane.
If you were insane at the time of the offense, then you will be found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI) rather than convicted.
Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure
The First Amendment is my best friend and sometimes-savior but I also really, really love the Fourth Amendment.
The Fourth Amendment, with some specific and well-delineated exceptions, guards you from warrantless searches and seizures. If your criminal mischief lawyer in Iowa can show the court that you were the victim of an illegal search and seizure, the evidence in your case could get suppressed. If enough evidence gets suppressed, the charges get reduced or the charges get dismissed. If there’s no proof of guilt, there’s no tenable case against you.
Des Moines Criminal Mischief Lawyers
Call an Iowa criminal mischief attorney when you’re facing charges of criminal mischief or vandalism in the city of Des Moines Iowa or near the University of Iowa.
Des Moines vandalism lawyers can help ensure that your rights are respected when you’re accused of messing with other people’s belongings.
Defense lawyers for criminal mischief crimes in Des Moines, Polk County, Ankeny, Ames, Johnston, West Des Moines, Waukee, Saylorville, Bondurant, Altoona, Clive, Grimes, Pleasant Hill, Story County, Boone County, Marshall County, Dallas County, Jasper County, Madison County, Warren County, Marion County, Wapello County, Davis County, Ottumwa, Bloomfield, Iowa City, Council Bluffs, and the rest of Iowa.
This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice. Consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction. Reading this site doesn’t create an attorney-client relationship. If you want to talk to us about your arson accusation in Iowa, please contact us at (515) 491 6128 and we’ll set up a time to talk.
What will happen if I’m charged?
When someone alleges that you vandalized something, spray painted it, destroyed it, or interrupted utility services, law enforcement will start an investigation. Depending on whether they believe there is probable cause to charge you with Iowa arson, you could be taken to jail or given documents that say when your court date is. After your arrest, you will be read your rights and given an opportunity to call a lawyer or a law firm.
You will be taken in front of the judge for an initial appearance. The judge will schedule a preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing, you or your lawyer will have the opportunity to ask a witness questions to establish whether probable cause exists to charge you with the offense. At this hearing, the witness will be under oath. There are reasons that your attorney might suggest waiving the preliminary hearing. You should consult with them before making a decision.
Your attorney will let you know when you will next have to appear in front of the court. This may be for an arraignment or you may be able to submit a written arraignment.
The county attorney’s office will review the information provided to them by the police. They will determine what offenses to charge you with. You could be charged with a misdemeanor with a felony
Your attorney will let you know what the government is claiming you did, what your rights are, what the worst case scenario sentence could be, and how this could affect your criminal record. Your criminal lawyer will tell you more about the fines, terms of incarceration, and collateral consequences that might apply.
Your law firm will give you legal advice on the pros and cons of taking your case to trial. The decision of whether or not to go to trial is ultimately yours.
If you’re convicted, you might have reason and opportunity to appeal your conviction or sentence to the court of appeals or even to the Iowa Supreme Court. The Supreme Court might even say that there was a constitutional problem with the statute you were charged under. Ask your criminal defense attorney for more information.
What should I know about lawyers generally?
Attorneys are people who completed their bachelor’s or 4-year degrees and then went on to attend a law school, such as Drake University Law School in Des Moines. After completing law school, Iowa lawyers take the bar exam and are evaluated for character and fitness. Iowa lawyers are admitted to the Iowa state bar. The bar association regulates the legal profession.
Some lawyers and law firms do general practice, which means they accept all kind of representation. Some lawyers specialize in particular areas of law. A lawyer might do only civil practice or only criminal defense. Some lawyers get even more particular than that, practicing only (or primarily) in a narrow area, such as domestic violence, sex crime, sexual abuse, operating while intoxicated, child endangerment, child abuse, indecent exposure, theft, family law, child custody, possession of controlled substances, sex crimes, marijuana, DUI defense, arson, criminal mischief, vehicular homicide, drug offenses, traffic violations, violent crime or drunk driving.
Many Iowa lawyers practice only in Iowa courts. All Iowa crimes are defined in the Iowa Code. The Iowa rules of criminal procedure control what happens in Iowa criminal justice cases.
Federal court is different. If you are facing federal charges for a federal criminal offense, make sure to let your Iowa lawyer know that so that they can give you referrals to other attorneys, if necessary. Federal courts in Iowa are not the same things as state law courts in Iowa. Federal prosecutors and federal judges use different procedural rules. Federal crimes are subject to federal sentencing.
What offenses exist in Iowa criminal law?
Criminal law offenses are divided into misdemeanors and felonies. Class A felonies exist, but most people facing felony charges are facing a class B felony, a class C felony, or a class D felony. If you have questions about Iowa vandalism laws, you should talk to a lawyer.
What can an Iowa vandalism defense lawyer do for me?
If you’ve been accused of vandalism, you need to be in contact with an attorney or law firm that works with Iowa criminal law.
If there’s a warrant out for your arrest, your Iowa criminal defense attorney can help coordinate with law enforcement to coordinate a self-surrender that doesn’t result in potential embarrassment at work or while you’re home with your family.
Your Iowa criminal mischief crime lawyer will stay in touch with the county attorney’s office and let the prosecutor know whether you choose to exercise or waive your right to speedy trial. Further, counsel can provide some guidance on whether it’s advisable in your position to consider a plea agreement or to go to trial. They will talk to you about whether a judge or jury is likely to find a particular witness credible.
Your criminal lawyer will let you know what sort of jail time you might be facing if convicted, how this will impact your criminal history, and how likely it is that you could get your charges dismissed.
Finally, there is a Victim Services Support Program available through the Iowa attorney general’s office.