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Mischief to Property

The Charge

Under s. 430 of the Criminal Code, a person is guilty of mischief if they willfully:

  • Destroy or damage property; or
  • Render property dangerous, inoperative or ineffective; or they
  • Interfere with another person’s use, enjoyment or operation of property.

This offence is meant to protect property that belongs to others. Generally, unless there ae aggravating factors present, a conviction for mischief of property valued at over $5000 will subject the accused to being prosecuted by indictment with a maximum jail sentence of two years. If the property is valued at under $5000, the accused can be found guilty of a summary offence and is liable to imprisonment for up to 6 months. There is no mandatory minimum sentence that is required.

The Code sets out situations where mischief to property has aggravating aspects, which will call for more serious penalties. Where actual danger to life is created by the mischief, the accused, on conviction, is subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Where the mischief offence is motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, gender identity, or disability, the accused is subject to being prosecuted by indictment with a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail.

The Investigation

To prove a mischief charge, police must gather evidence which includes establishing that the property in question belongs to a person other than the suspect. Additionally, police will need to prove that the damage was caused willfully by the suspect i.e., that they intentionally caused the damage. Typical mischief charges include acts such as causing intentional damage to a vehicle by striking it, kicking it, or “keying” it. Mischief also includes acts such as applying graffiti to public or private property or damaging the property of a spouse or other person in a moment of anger.

Because a mischief to property conviction requires intention or at least recklessness, police will typically seek to obtain a confession from their suspect in order to strengthen their case. As experienced property crime lawyers, we are able to help by providing advice to our clients regarding their rights under the Charter, including their right to remain silent.

Recent Successes

R. vs. J.T. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Resist /Obstruct Police.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction and whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the charges.
Result: Mr. Johnson provided Crown with additional information regarding the alleged facts of the assault complaint and the excessive force used by police in arresting our client.  Ultimately Mr. Johnson persuaded Crown counsel to stay the proceedings on both charges. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.M. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for our client to receive a conviction on this charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the Court to grant our client a conditional discharge. No conviction.

R. vs. T.A. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Commit Indecent Act.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for Crown to proceed with the charge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to present information on our client's behalf and was able to persuade Crown counsel that there was no longer any public interest in proceeding with this matter. Stay of proceedings. Warrant cancelled. No criminal record.

R. vs. H.L. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to proceed on the lesser offence of driving without a valid licence. Rather than a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition, our client was sentenced to a $300 fine and a 3 month prohibition.

R. vs. L.W. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Criminal Harassment (reduced to Peace Bond).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for Crown to prosecute our client on the criminal harassment charge;
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to stay the criminal charge upon our client entering into a s. 810 Peace Bond for 12 months. No criminal record.

R. vs. K.M. - Surrey RCMP Investigation

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: Whether there was sufficient evidence to meet the Crown's charge approval standard.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to steer our client through the investigation and was able to provide information to police and Crown which culminated in Crown counsel's decision to not approve any charges. No criminal record.

R. vs. P.H.S. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for Crown to proceed with the charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to allow our client to plead to s. 24(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act. Rather than the mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition, our client was sentenced to a $300 fine and a two month driving prohibition.

R. vs. K.K. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Sexual Assault x2; Sexual Interference.
Issue: Given the extensive information that we were able to provide to Crown counsel, whether there remained a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on all counts. No jail. No criminal record.

R. vs. C.F. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (reduced to s. 810 Peace Bond).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was appropriate for Crown to proceed.
Result: Mr. Mines was first able to persuade Crown to proceed on a Peace Bond application rather than the criminal assault charge. He was then able to persuade Crown to withdraw its Peace Bond application. No criminal record.

R. vs. T.K.- Abbotsford Provincial Court

Charge: Driving without consideration; driving past police vehicle; speeding.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with all counts, which upon conviction would have led to a driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to negotiate a resolution where our client pleaded guilty to only a three point speeding ticket and police withdrew the remaining counts. Our client was sentenced to a fine. No driving prohibition.

R. vs. E.W. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was in the public interest for our client to receive a criminal conviction.
Result: After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions on our client's behalf, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. J.D. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Driving while Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with this charge which carries a one year mandatory minimum driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to permit our client to resolve this matter by pleading guilty to the lesser offence of driving without a valid licence. Our client was sentenced to a fine. No driving prohibition.

The Defence

Identification

To prove a mischief charge, the Crown must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the identity of the accused. In many circumstances, absent evidence from an eyewitness that is familiar to the accused, proving identity can be more difficult. As experienced defence lawyers, we understand the issues that can arise at trial regarding the frailties of eyewitness identification. For example, it is often very difficult for a person who has only caught a fleeting glimpse of a suspect to be able to identify them with certainty in the aftermath of the incident. In appropriate cases, we will challenge the Crown’s identification evidence, whether its source is from a witness or from forensic sources, such as fingerprints, shoeprints, video, photographs, or DNA.

We are always pleased when clients contact us in the early stages of being charged with a mischief offence. This is because, absent aggravating factors, we can offer these clients the very best potential outcome – the potential of persuading Crown counsel to not approve any charge at all. Depending on the circumstances of the offence and our client, the case may be dealt with extra judicially so that, in the result, there is no conviction and no criminal record.

Alternative Measures

In appropriate cases, we will obtain a full background briefing from our client and provide submissions to Crown counsel requesting that, rather than proceeding with a criminal prosecution, they allow our client into the Alternative Measures Program, which is, literally, an alternative to the court system. Where a person takes responsibility for a relatively minor criminal act, they may be able to avoid a criminal record by agreeing to complete restorative justice conditions such as community work service. As experienced defence lawyers, we are able to make “without prejudice” requests to Crown counsel to have our clients accepted into the Alternative Measures Program in order to avoid a criminal record.

Start with a free consultation.

If you are being investigated by police or if you’ve been charged with a criminal or driving offence, don’t face the problem alone. Being accused of an offence is stressful. The prospects of a criminal record or jail sentence can be daunting. Even if you think there is no defence, we may be able to help. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our Vancouver lawyers, contact us now.