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How is criminal mischief different from a felony in Colorado?

Summer break is in full swing. College and high school students alike have anticipated free time to spend with friends and socialize at parties. Grill outs, bonfire, nights out at the beach and at vacation homes are hotspots for young adults to hang out. Sometimes the party gets out of hand, and property might get damaged. Unintentional or not, the police get involved and the word is dropped: Criminal mischief is the charge.

What does criminal mischief mean?

Colorado vandalism laws generally use the term “criminal mischief” when referring to vandalism, an offense that occurs when a person defaces someone else’s property. This crime sounds severe in nature, which it surely can be. Interestingly, minors are often the culprit in vandalism cases. Individuals under the age of 18 can be charged in the juvenile justice system. Young adults, such as college students, face harsher punishments such as fines ranging from $1,000 to $100,000 and/or 12 to 18 months in jail.

Grounds for vandalism

According to Colorado law, vandalism is intentional. For example, if someone rents another individual’s home, then goes on to break the windows and tear up the carpet, a crime is committed. A mural painted on the side of a tunnel without permission is a crime. Innocent individuals may be charged due to misunderstanding or other factors outside of their control. Examples of vandalism include damage to:

  • Vehicles
  • Homes
  • Billboards
  • Street signs
  • Building structures
  • Other public spaces

What is a felony?

Colorado sorts crimes like vandalism into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. A felony could be accompanied with prison time of one year or more depending on the severity of the crime. Misdemeanors encompass crimes that are less severe in nature. The punishment is enforced by the county, while jail time typically maxes out at 18 months.

The consequences, penalties, fines, and/or jail time depend on the class of the felony or misdemeanor. A Class 1 felony presents the most serious of crimes. A Class 1 Misdemeanor is serious to an extent, and mostly covers drug crimes.

What does it mean to have both?

In certain cases when the offense is extreme, an individual can get charged with both criminal mischief and a felony. If a person knowingly damages someone else’s personal property, they are committing criminal mischief. In addition, a felony or misdemeanor follows depending on the value of property damaged.

Criminal mischief in Colorado, especially for students and young adults, can happen by accident or be a misunderstanding. The process of a conviction can be scary and have negative consequences for everyone involved. Criminal charges do not necessarily equate a conviction. Charges can be challenged in court.

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