Criminal mischief is the term used to describe the offense of intentionally or recklessly damaging public or another person’s property. This damage can take many forms, either through defacement, tampering or vandalism.
In New Hampshire, the offense is typically a misdemeanor. However, it can also become a felony under certain circumstances.
Criminal mischief as a misdemeanor
Per state law, most forms of criminal mischief are Class B misdemeanors. A person convicted of criminal mischief as a Class B misdemeanor faces as much as $1,200 in fines.
But the offense becomes a Class A misdemeanor if the person purposefully causes or attempts to cause economic loss worth more than $100 and less than $1,500 with their mischief. A Class A misdemeanor conviction carries up to 12 months in jail and $2,000 in fines.
Criminal mischief as a felony
Criminal mischief becomes a felony offense when the person causes or tries to cause one or more of the following:
- Causing economic loss worth over $1,500
- Causing a significant interruption of public communication, transportation, utilities (gas, water, power) or other public services
- Firing a gun at an occupied structure
- Damaging property with historical, cultural or sentimental value that can’t be restored or replaced
When any of these are committed, the criminal mischief offense becomes a Class B felony, which leads to up to seven years of imprisonment and $4,000 in fines.
To recap, criminal mischief becomes a felony when the offender meets the above conditions. So even if drawing a piece of graffiti on the side of a building doesn’t cost more than $1,500 in damages, if the building has any historical value, the drawer can face a felony charge, for instance. Criminal mischief might sound like harmless fun and games, but the offense has real consequences and penalties.