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How to Beat a Criminal Mischief Charge

4 min read
Learn effective strategies on how to beat a criminal mischief charge. Protect your rights and understand the legal process.

In Canada, mischief is a serious crime. Even a minor mischief charge may still be punishable by jail time. The severity of a mischief charge depends on the type of offence and the circumstances under which it occurred.

Criminal mischief charges are brought under Section 430 of the Criminal Code of Canada. Mischief is covered by the Criminal Code. The most common mischief charges are property-related, such as vandalism.

Mischief is defined as the willful destruction or damage of property, making it useless, dangerous, or ineffective. It also includes obstructing, interrupting, or interfering with someone’s lawful use, enjoyment or operation of their property.

Spray-painting the side of a building, deleting someone else’s computer files or smashing a car’s taillight after a confrontation are all common examples of mischief.

Let’s learn how to beat a criminal mischief charge:

Mischief Punishments

The punishment for the charge will depend on various factors if you are convicted of criminal mischief. A mischief charge is a hybrid offence, meaning the Crown can proceed by indictment or summary conviction. Summary convictions are less serious and punishable.

On the other hand, being charged with an indictable offence is much more serious. Depending on the offence’s magnitude, it will involve a more substantial penalty, such as a higher fine and potentially a longer maximum jail sentence, whether the Crown proceeds on summary or indictment.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged with mischief, your first action should be to contact a criminal lawyer. Although mischief is generally not one of the more serious crimes offences, it’s never advisable to represent yourself.

A lawyer’s familiarity and experience with criminal law can significantly affect how your case gets handled. A criminal defence lawyer may even be able to resolve your matter outside of court, so you don’t get an arrest record.

Reasonable Doubt of Identity

The Crown proves your identity beyond doubt. This means that they must prove it was, in fact, you who committed the offence you are charged with. Perhaps there are no witnesses, or some condition exists that prevents a witness from identifying you.

Or maybe the offence was recorded by poor-quality surveillance footage. Mistakes happen occasionally, and the authorities could identify you erroneously. If your lawyer argues that the Crown cannot prove you committed the offence, an acquittal may result.

Colour of Right

The term colour of right means that you had the legal authority to cause the damage you are charged with. When referring to mischief, this usually implies that the property belongs to you.

You can also destroy or damage the property if you have the authority to do so. If your lawyer can prove you had a right to do so, the Crown can’t convict you of a mischief charge.

Mistake of Fact

If you believed that the property you damaged or destroyed belonged to you, you might be able to use a mistake of fact defence.

If you can show that your behaviour resulted from an incorrect assumption and not from criminal intent, you may be able to convince the court that you made a genuine mistake.


If your lawyer can prove that you were not acting recklessly when the damage occurred, you can beat a criminal mischief charge. An example is if you were carrying something heavy, tripped, and accidentally broke a car window.

Having a witness who can attest that you were not acting irresponsibly can help in cases like this.

Negotiation with Prosecutor

Finding an experienced lawyer to help you right from the beginning can make a significant difference to the outcome of your case. Sometimes, your lawyer can negotiate with the prosecution and convince them to dismiss the case, removing the need for you to appear in court.

Your legal team will examine other cases across Canada for precedent examples and determine how the courts have ruled in similar proceedings. If your lawyer can convince the Crown that there is no “reasonable prospect of conviction,” they may be able to persuade the Crown to drop the charges.

You must contact a knowledgeable legal defence lawyer if you are facing a mischief charge. The potential legal consequences if convicted of mischief are life-changing. They include a criminal record, imprisonment, probation and fines.

It is also imperative to consider the other consequences of a criminal record. Criminal charges can cause damaged relationships, damaged reputation, travel restrictions, and job loss. Retaining a lawyer is the most valuable thing you can do to protect your future.