Criminal Mischief in PA (Maximums and Defenses)

Criminal Mischief charges in Pennsylvania covers a lot of scenarios. From keying an ex-boyfriend’s car to smashing up another person’s property to “tagging” (graffiti), the acts it covers is wide. It is not a slap on the wrist offense because often times we find that restitution is majorly over-stated. People frequently try to “get rich” or profit by claiming damage that doesn’t exist or getting inflated value for the property destroyed or defaced. 

When people ask: “Who is the best Criminal Mischief attorney near me?” The answer always comes up the same: The McShane Firm. We are simply the best criminal defense lawyers around.


The Law:

You can read the exact statute here: 18 PS § 3304.  Criminal mischief.

When selecting which attorney to hire, please consider:

  • Can you call anytime and talk to a live person?
  • Do they offer payment plans with no credit checks?
  • Will your attorney be attentive and explain what’s going on?

At The McShane Firm, we answer yes to all of these questions. We strive to provide you with a great customer service experience during this tough time.


Maximum Penalties:

If you plead guilty to this or are found guilty, it is a summary offense. All summary offenses have a maximum penalty of jail not more than 90 days and a maximum fine of $300.00.

But with a summary conviction there is just so much more to worry about. In truth, jail or a fine is temporary. The conviction and its consequences are permanent. You must consider Summary offense consequences in PA.

Technically, the law reads as follows:

(b)  Grading.–Criminal mischief is a felony of the third degree if the actor intentionally causes pecuniary loss in excess of $5,000, or a substantial interruption or impairment of public communication, transportation, supply of water, gas or power, or other public service. It is a misdemeanor of the second degree if the actor intentionally causes pecuniary loss in excess of $1,000, or a misdemeanor of the third degree if he intentionally or recklessly causes pecuniary loss in excess of $500 or causes a loss in excess of $150 for a violation of subsection (a)(4). Otherwise criminal mischief is a summary offense.

Choosing the right attorney makes all the difference in the max penalties

Despite how the law reads, none of the six forms of criminal mischief have an element of the crime that involves the loss in terms of money. As such, it is a fact that changes the maximum. The fact that changes the maximum is never put before the jury. As such, it is presumptively unconstitutional to enhance this crime above a summary offense per Alleyne and other rulings.

I can almost for certain guarantee you that the local police, state police or the DA may not know this. We do. We use it to your advantage.

Again, this is if the worst thing happens. We make sure the worst doesn’t happen. Let’s see how we can fight and beat the government, ok?

What is The McShane Difference?

  • We take time to understand your personal needs and goals. Then we cater our legal strategy to fit you.
  • We care about you. We listen and return phone calls. We will take time to explain things so you are not left anxious in the dark.
  • We will make this as easy as possible. We will try to minimize the number of times you have to be in court which means less disruption of your work and family life.

Does this sound like what you are looking for in an attorney? If yes, then take the next step and call (717) 657-3900.


A summary offense is a judge trial

All summary offenses are tried to one judge without a jury.

What the government must prove:

Presumption of Innocence

First it’s about a mindset. Even experienced criminal defense attorneys adopt the wrong mindset.

While it is true that the government does not have to prove the complete and total impossibility of guilt, a reasonable doubt is a doubt based upon reason and common sense—the kind of doubt that would make a reasonable person hesitate to act.

When the government charges you with any crime, it is just a naked allegation. It proves nothing.

Second, the power of the judicial oath makes it so the judge must follow the law. The law includes the command that the accused at all times has the presumption of innocence. A criminal trial is not about where the judge is being asked to decide who told the better story or if the government told a story that is possible or even very very likely. 

The judge is neutral

The judge is not there to be a referee as to the law. But when it comes to determining guilty or not guilty, the law commands that he or she be totally neutral. The judge is not standing in between the prosecutor and the accused and being asked to choose which side is better. It is about critically examining the government’s case.

Beyond a reasonable doubt

The only way the judge can lawfully and with good conscious give a verdict of guilty, and leave our side, is if the prosecutor presents such quantity and quality of evidence that the only reasonable interpretation of the facts is that of guilt.

A brick wall called reasonable doubt now stands before us all. Unless the government knocks down every brick, doubt still exists, and you go home. Reasonable doubt can come out of the evidence (what someone said, what someone said they saw, what someone said they did) or FROM A LACK OF EVIDENCE (somethings that the government didn’t explain, what doesn’t make sense, questions unanswered, etc.).

Our Clients are entitled to a Bill of Rights which states:

  • Our clients have the right to expect, we will be proactive in communication. You will hear it from us first. We will return all phone calls, texts and emails promptly.
  • Our clients have the right to expect plain speaking, straight shooting. No B. S.
  • Our clients have the right to expect us to do it right the first time, every time.
  • Our clients have the right to expect us to be on time and professionally prepared for all court appearances, and all meetings.
  • Our clients have the right to expect that they will be fully informed at all times.

This is our promise to you. Call today to get us on your side: (717) 657-3900.


The elements (requirements) for Criminal Mischief:

The government must prove each of these numbered events beyond a reasonable doubt. If not, then you remain as you started before this whole thing started: innocent. The government must prove:

Alternative one
  1. the accused
  2. damaged
  3. tangible property of another
  4. intentionally, recklessly, or by negligence
  5. in the employment of fire, explosives, or other dangerous means listed in section 3302(a) of this title (relating to causing or risking catastrophe);
Alternative two
  1. the accused
  2. intentionally or recklessly tampered
  3. with tangible property of another so as to endanger person or property;
Alternative three
  1. the accused
  2. intentionally or recklessly caused
  3. another to suffer pecuniary loss by deception or threat;
Alternative four
  1. the accused
  2. intentionally defaced or otherwise damaged
  3. tangible public property or tangible property of another
  4. with graffiti by use of any aerosol spray-paint can, broad-tipped indelible marker or similar marking device;
Alternative five
  1. the accused
  2. intentionally damaged
  3. real or personal property of another;
Alternative six
  1. the accused
  2. intentionally defaced
  3. personal, private or public property
  4. by discharging a paintball gun or paintball marker at that property.