Being mischievous can sometimes border to being a criminal. In the United States, malicious mischief can fall under certain regulations and you can get penalized if you commit it. This particular sort of crime means the act of destroying the property of another person out of spite and ill-intentions—and it is not only exclusive to graffiti or damaging establishments or objects.
The United States Code has a definition of malicious mischief on its 65th Chapter and describes it as a “depredation against any property of the United States.” It has penalties of prison time up to 10 years if the sum of the damages is over $1,000. You are guilty of federal violations if you damage any government property, if you injure communication lines, stations, and systems up to the point that it disrupts civil defense functions, if you harmed animals used by law enforcement, and if you interfere with operations of the satellite, energy facilities, and places under territorial jurisdiction.
But what does it say in Nevada? How is it defined and what are the punishments if you did it in the State?
Malicious Mischief Definition in the Nevada Revised Statutes
Malicious mischief is found in Chapter 206 of the Nevada Revised Statutes and it pretty much shows that you cannot damage property whether it is public or private.
According to NRS 206.010, you cannot “damage or destroy any dwelling house or other building, or any shop, steamboat, vessel or other property.” If you do this, you could be bound to punishments depending on the value of the damaged.
This is followed by NRS 206.015 where it states that you cannot maliciously damage any crops, gardens, trees, and shrubs found in public or private lands.
You also are committing malicious mischief if you damage properties used for religious and memorial purposes, as well as schools, transportation facilities, and community centers. As written in the NRS 206.125, anyone who destroys or defaces any of the areas listed is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
While these are all good definitions of malicious mischief, perhaps the offense that is very synonymous to it is vandalism and what comes first to your mind when this word is mentioned is graffiti. Elaborately drawing or writing on walls without consent is illegal in Nevada and the rest of the country, even the act of trespassing just to perform graffiti is unlawful. According to NRS 206.330, anyone who “places graffiti on or otherwise defaces the public or private property, real or personal, of another, without the permission of the owner” is guilty of a misdemeanor. That is if the value of the wall or structure drawn on is less than $250. If the cost is more than $5,000 and damages communication, transportation, and fire protection, it becomes category E felony. And this can escalate to a category D felony if the placed defaced was under the protection of the State, for example, are natural preserves.
Even carrying graffiti implement or kits can make you an offender if it is proven that you have the intent to vandalize.
There still is a lot of wrongdoings that are classified as malicious mischief in Nevada. Some of them are being a total nuisance in any buildings, killing animals especially livestock, tampering documents, posting bills without authorization, and removal, alteration, or altogether destruction of a landmark or a monument. More specific examples of malicious mischief include throwing rocks at your neighbor’s windows, driving through someone’s lawn, removing important road signs, and even slashing tires of parked cars.
Penalties of Malicious Mischief in Nevada
Since malicious mischief varies in factors that constitute it and the complexities are not fit to be condensed in brief sentences, you can read NRS 205 which shows its punishments depending on the crime. If anything, what you should know is the greater the damage is the greater the malicious mischief charges. If you spray painted art to an abandoned home, you might get misdemeanor as it could have less value and no people were actually harmed because it is empty. If, however, you threw paint at a government facility that disrupted operations then you will most likely be convicted of a felony.
Defenses against Malicious Mischief in Nevada
If we are going to look at it without prejudice, we can say that a lot of malicious mischief violations were made out of pure accident or because the offender did not know any better. Of course, the court can be unyielding against these types of defenses and you will have to come up with strategies far stronger than your naivety and recklessness as ignorance does not excuse you from the law.
Now, some of the defense that you can use is that you were mistaken as the offender. You could have been living in the same neighborhood and you might have a likeness or were friends with the real offender. With the help of your Las Vegas criminal defense attorney, you can also reduce your malicious mischief charges by proving that the damages only happened because the property is already on the brink of destruction. For example, your attorney could argue that house which was already destroyed by fire would collapse sooner or later and an injury caused by the defendant did not make any difference.
The desire to express yourself through destruction of public or private properties could lead to criminal consequences. Avoid this by being mindful of your surroundings and being educated of the law. If it is too late for that, enlist the help of a criminal defense attorney in Las Vegas or other regions in Nevada as you still have the chance to certify your innocence.