In New Hampshire, a criminal mischief charge generally refers to a criminal property offense. To be considered a criminal mischief charge, the offender must have purposely or recklessly damaged the property of another, or vandalized it.
The crime does not apply to car accidents, unless the driver purposely rams another vehicle, but generally includes situations where someone throws a rock through a house window, commits arson, fires a gun at an occupied structure, or does damage to a municipal bus or other form of municipal transportation that substantially interrupts or impairs its operation.
A New Hampshire criminal mischief charge is a Class A misdemeanor if the property damaged is less than $1,000 but more than $100. Any misdemeanor carries a maximum county jail time of up to one year.
For recklessly or purposely causing property damage of more than $1,000, you could face a Class B felony, with a sentence of 3 and one-half to 7 years in state prison. To be charged as a Class B felony, the defendant must have allegedly committed any one of the following:
- Purposely caused property damage valued at more than $1,000.
- Substantially interrupted public or utility transportation
- Fired a gun into an occupied structure
- Caused any damage to property where the offender is award has historical, cultural or sentimental value and cannot be replaced or repaired.
Charged with Arson
A serious criminal mischief charge related to property is arson. It is the intentional starting of a fire or causing an explosion that damages property. It is a Class A felony if the fire or explosion damages a structure that is occupied or is an historic structure. An occupied structure is one that is normally used as a residence or for business purposes and can be vacant.
If the fire or explosion was done to collect insurance proceeds, damages real estate, or the damage exceeds $1,000, it is a Class B felony. Also if the fire or explosion endangers a person or other occupied structure, it is a Class B felony as well.
It can be a misdemeanor if the damage to property is under $1,000.
Other Types of Criminal Mischief Offenses
Criminal mischief also includes other non-property crimes, called “Obstructing Governmental Operations,” that can result in serious penalties. If you have been charged with any of the following offenses, you should immediately consult with a New Hampshire criminal defense attorney:
Obstructing Crime Report: This involves interfering, disabling or using force or threats to impede or block access to any form of communication by a police officer or healthcare provider to report a criminal offense or provide medical assistance. If no violence is involved, the offense can be charged as a misdemeanor.
Resisting Arrest: Hindering or preventing a police officer from arresting someone.If no weapon is used and if the officer is not assaulted or injured, the offense is a misdemeanor with fines and jail time or community service.
Aiding in Criminal Activity: This is assisting someone or being an accessory to a crime by giving advice, money, or some other degree of involvement. The offender need not be present when the crime is committed. It is either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the severity of the crime that is committed.
Hindering Apprehension: This offense usually includes hiding someone fleeing from police but is also includes providing the person with a weapon or car to avoid arrest, warning the offender of imminent discovery, deceiving police, or destroying or altering evidence that could be used to arrest or apprehend the person. It is a misdemeanor unless the individual hindering apprehension is aware that the fleeing person committed a felony; in which case, it is a Class B felony.
Institutional Escape: Anyone who escapes from jail or other institutional facility commits a Class B felony offense and faces from 3 and one-half to 7 years in prison.
If you are charged with a criminal mischief, you need the assistance of an NH criminal defense attorney who has the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to defend you whether the offense is a misdemeanor or felony.
Ryan Russman is a prominent criminal defense attorney in Exeter, New Hampshire who also has offices in Manchester and Portsmouth and has handled serious criminal cases throughout the state. Mr. Russman is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and has appeared on radio and television to discuss criminal law topics.