Maine’s property damage laws classify Criminal Mischief as either a misdemeanor or felony. Criminal Mischief in Maine is classified as a class D crime when the charge is non-aggravated. This charge can result in jail time up to 364 days as well as up to $2000 in fines and restitution for the damaged property. If you have been accused of criminal mischief in Maine, then you are suspected of damaging or destroying another’s property. Vandalism is another way to refer to Criminal Mischief in Maine.
Let’s take a moment to examine what an accused can anticipate when facing charges of criminal mischief in Maine. Also what can be done to help in their defense.
- Defining Criminal Mischief in Maine
- The Court Process for Criminal Mischief in Maine
- How a criminal defense attorney can help those accused of Criminal Mischief in Maine?
How is Criminal Mischief in Maine Defined?
Maine statutes 17-A M.R.S.A. §805 and §806 define and govern charges for Criminal Mischief and Aggravated Criminal Mischief. A charge for Criminal Mischief in Maine is a Class D misdemeanor. Simply stated, the statute characterizes Criminal Mischief as destruction of property. The destruction of property can be identified as Criminal Mischief in a number of circumstances, including:
- Damaging property of another when the person has no right to damage that property
- Damaging property for the purpose of collecting insurance proceeds
- Impairing the use of another’s property by tampering with it when the person has no right to do so
- Damaging or destroying public or municipal property, such as law enforcement, fire department, transportation, sanitation, or communications services, or creating a disruption in those services
The charge of Criminal Mischief in Maine considers the state of mind of the accused when the crime was committed. According to the law, the required state of mind is that the defendant “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” destroyed the property of another. In other words, if the defendant knew and was aware that their actions would lead to the destruction of property. Additionally, the defendant intentionally engaged in conduct that damaged the property of another. If these allegations are true, then the state of mind element of the crime has been met.
Often Criminal Mischief in Maine is not the lone charge accused. If property has been destroyed while committing a different crime, such as Assault, Domestic Violence or Burglary. A charge of Criminal Mischief in Maine is also added.
If the value of the property damage exceeds $2,000.00, if the property damage “recklessly endangers human life,” or if the damage causes “substantial harm” to the “health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation, or personal relationships” of the other person, then the charge can be elevated to Aggravated Criminal Mischief. A charge for Aggravated Criminal Mischief is a Class C felony.
Arrest for Criminal Mischief in Maine
You can be Summonsed or arrested for Criminal Mischief when police are made aware of the property damage and who might have caused it. It is not something that you would need to be “caught in the act” doing. Police can arrest you for Criminal Mischief if they have probable cause that you committed the crime. Most often, this is determined through police investigation, witness statements, or confessions made by the accused.
Depending on the circumstances of the crime, the police might not arrest you formally for Criminal Mischief in Maine. Instead, the police might instead issue you a Summons, which is a criminal “ticket” containing a court date upon which you would be Arraigned. As soon as you receive a Summons is when you should contact a criminal defense attorney.
On a later date after being accused of Criminal Mischief in Maine, you will have an opportunity to answer to the charge at court. You will be formally Arraigned in front of a Judge, who will read the details of the charge to you, and then you answer to the charge in the form of Not Guilty.
Defenses to Criminal Mischief
Defending a Criminal Mischief charge depends largely on the unique facts of the case and how they play out. For instance, if after the criminal defense lawyer examines the case there is a question whether the State of Mind element of the crime has been satisfied, then this might become an important element to defending the case.
In addition, it is important to examine whether any of the evidence obtained by police was gained in violation of your constitutional rights. If your constitutional rights were violated during the police investigation, then your criminal defense attorney could advocate that this evidence be suppressed from being used in evidence at trial. Being “suppressed” is another way of saying that the evidence cannot be entered into evidence at trial.
After an Arraignment for Criminal Mischief, the next significant court date is a dispositional hearing, called a Dispositional Conference or Docket Call. At this date, the District Attorney and the Criminal Defense Attorney meet to discuss a potential resolution to the case without going to a trial. Often, the District Attorney may provide an initial offer, such as to plead Guilty as charged and accept a fine, or to accept a short jail sentence. Criminal Defense counsel will advocate for you in an attempt to reach a more favorable arrangement outside of trial.
Often, in misdemeanor Criminal Mischief cases, the defendant may accept a plea deal, including a reduced charge or having the charge set aside pending the defendant’s good behavior over a period of time. The type of offer depends on the strength of the State’s case. If after the dispositional hearing no resolution is reached that is acceptable to you, then the case would proceed to Jury Selection and a Trial.
A trial is getting your “day in court.” In a trial, both attorneys make opening statements, the State presents its case, the Defense counsel argues in favor of an acquittal, both counsels present closing arguments, and then the case is handed over to the jury for a decision. Then it is up to the jury whether or not you are guilty or not guilty.
How a Maine Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
While every case is a bit different, there are some defenses which are common in criminal mischief cases in Maine. As with most criminal defenses, your attorney will defend your constitutional rights, investigate your case from a legal perspective, and prepare for trial. The goal can be to get the case dismissed or to win at trial. Some common defense strategies for criminal mischief include:
Are we certain that the accused is the right guy? In criminal mischief cases, the property owner or passer-by can be the one to report the damage to the police. If this were the case, I would investigate how the police determined who to accuse, paying special attention to potential flaws in eyewitness statements. This approach among others is important for your defense.
State of Mind
As we pointed out earlier, the accused must know that they were about to cause damage by what they did. Accidentally causing damage without the requisite State of Mind to cause damage would not be Criminal Mischief, but it could be characterized differently. When a jury considers and evaluates your state of mind, they listen to all the evidence of whether your conduct was “intentional, knowing, or reckless,” or if it was just an unfortunate accident. A criminal defense attorney with good trial skills can help to draw attention to the evidence on the state of mind when the act was committed.
Contact Maine Criminal Defense Attorney Chris A. Nielsen
Taking swift decisive action hiring a criminal defense attorney gives you an advocate who can provide counsel on the Maine legal system when facing a charge of Criminal Mischief in Maine. With over 10 years of legal experience, Attorney Chris A Nielsen, Esq. has the skills and knowledge which can help your case. There are proven strategies to defending criminal mischief in Maine cases. The sooner our legal team becomes involved in the case the more time we will have to do our own fact finding as we help to prepare your defense.
Our committed legal team is determined to take immediate action to seek a positive case outcome. If you or someone you know is charged with criminal mischief in Maine, I encourage you to contact The Nielsen Group for your free legal consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney. We will take the time to answer your questions and to put your mind at ease as we work with you to determine a defense strategy.
It is well worth your time to check out:
If you would like to call us now at (207) 571-8555, we can begin to develop your case strategy.
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