How to Beat a Criminal Mischief Charge

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

Criminal mischief charges are addressed under Section 430 of the Criminal Code of Canada. There are different forms of mischief covered under the Criminal Code. The most common mischief charges are related to property, such as vandalism.

Mischief is defined as the willful destruction or damage of property, making that property 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 taillight after a confrontation are all common examples of mischief.

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

Mischief Punishments

The punishment you may receive 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 summarily. A summary conviction offence is less serious and will have a lesser punishment.

On the other hand, is 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 Lawyer

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

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

Reasonable Doubt of Identity

The Crown is responsible for proving your identity beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that they must prove it was, in fact, you who committed the offence you are being charged with. Perhaps there are no witnesses, or some condition existed that prevented a witness from being able to identify you. Or maybe the offence in question was recorded by poor-quality surveillance footage.

Mistakes do happen occasionally, and the authorities could have identified you erroneously. If your lawyer can argue that the Crown cannot prove it was you who 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 being charged with. When referring to mischief, this usually means that the property belonged to you. It can also mean you have the authority to damage or destroy the property. If your lawyer can prove you had a colour of right, 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 satisfy 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 in 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 look at other cases across Canada for examples of precedence and determine how the courts 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 criminal defence lawyer if you are facing a mischief charge. The potential legal consequences that you face if convicted of mischief are life-changing. They include a criminal record, imprisonment, probation and fines. It is also important to consider other consequences of having a criminal record.

Strained relationships, a damaged reputation, potential travel restrictions, and job loss can all result from criminal charges. Retaining a lawyer is the best thing you can do to protect your future.

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