Our firm represents a lot of clients who have been charged with mischief. Criminal mischief can be found under section 380(1) of the Criminal Code. Mischief is a dual procedural offence. In other words, the Crown can elect by indictment or they can elect, if it’s a less serious or non-aggravated mischief, summarily.
By the way, for an indictable, aggravated mischief involving thousands and thousands of dollars in damage, if not hundreds of thousands, under the Criminal Code, there is a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison. For a summary conviction mischief, where it is not a particularly serious offence, for example, a husband or wife intentionally breaking some jointly owned dishes, which is not very nice behaviour, but it’s not considered that serious of an offence, we can often negotiate a very good resolution assuming the person does not have a defence to the charge. For example, in this situation where-by the way, for jointly held goods, you are not allowed to break or damage goods that you jointly own with someone else, such as your husband or wife. In that situation, we can often avoid a criminal record by convincing a judge to sentence the accused to a conditional discharge. Sometimes we can even get the charge diverted out of the criminal justice system if it’s a minor mischief. Obviously, with large scale mischiefs involving thousands of dollars in damaged goods, you could be facing a serious jail term. If you intentionally destroyed millions of dollars’ worth of property, that would be considered a serious criminal offence. Sometimes the police mistakenly lay a mischief charge when our client accidentally damaged some goods. We would be able to win this type of case where there was an accident which resulted in damages, as long as the client is credible and reliable in court or we were able to show there is a reasonable doubt that the alleged victim of the damages is not credible and reliable. Where goods are damaged due to an accident, there is no criminal intent i.e. there is lack of mens rea or guilty mind. Do you have a guilty mind when you accidently break something? No, it was an accident or a simple unfortunate mistake and is not a criminal act. Some cases are defendable is the bottom line and some cases, you can get diversion which is a good thing. Obviously, if a person has no prior criminal record and they merely break a dish for example, on the scale of criminal matters, it is fairly minor and no one has been assaulted. Should the courts be imposing a criminal record for such a low level or minor mischief? The answer is clearly no and we can often obtain great outcomes in this regard. So it certainly pays to hire a good criminal lawyer, in this situation. You will often get a great result or a more lenient sentence if you hire a capable and experienced criminal lawyer. They will be able to effectively negotiate with the crown and appear before the judge and hopefully obtain a great result or win your case. Your lawyer will be able to alleviate your stress and you will be able to get on with your life.