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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 two years jail, less a day. 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. A.N. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault with a Weapon.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we guided our client through, whether it was in the public interest for Crown to seek a conviction on this charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to permit our client to plead to the lesser offence of common assault. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. J.J. - Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of  the Crown being able to prove that bodily harm occurred.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to permit our client to plead to the lesser offence of common assault. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

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

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given that the complainant had instigated the altercation, whether it was in the public interest for our client to be convicted of the offence.
Result: We were able to guide our client through a course of rehabilitation and, after hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge and placed him on a non-reporting probation order for six months. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. S.W. - Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Refusing to comply with a testing demand.
Issue: Given the circumstances of the offence and our client, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on the lesser Motor Vehicle Act offence of driving without due care. Rather than a criminal conviction and a minimum 12 month driving prohibition, our client was liable to pay a $350 fine and a 2 month driving prohibition. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Given the circumstances of the offence and our client, whether it was necessary for Crown to proceed with the driving while prohibited charge, which carries a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to proceed on the lesser Motor Vehicle Act charge of driving without a driver's licence. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions our client was sentenced to a fine and a 4 month driving prohibition.

R. vs. J.S. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm (domestic).
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove that bodily harm resulted and, whether the rehabilitative steps our client had taken justified the Court granting a conditional discharge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on the charge of common assault. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. C.M. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault; Threatening.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of conviction in this alleged "road rage" case.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to provide information to Crown counsel on our client's behalf that led Crown to conclude there was no substantial likelihood of conviction. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. M.D. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Theft Under $5000; Uttering Threats.
Issue: Whether, given our client's circumstances and remorse, whether it was in the public interest for criminal charges to proceed.
Result: We were able to provide information to police investigators which resulted in police deciding to not forward any charges to Crown. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to provide information to the Crown on our client's behalf that persuaded Crown that the case did not meet the charge approval standard. No charge was approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.F. - Provincial Court of Newfoundland

Charge: Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking (Marijuana).
Issue: Whether it there was a substantial likelihood of obtaining a conviction.
Result: Upon considering Mr. Johnson's representations, Crown counsel concluded that there was no longer a likelihood of conviction. Crown withdrew the charge, bringing the matter to an end. No criminal record.

R. vs. M.B. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Application for firearms prohibition and forfeiture.
Issue: Whether Crown could establish that our client posed a risk to himself or others.
Result: Mid trial, Mr. Mines was able to obtain a successful resolution in which our client consented to an 18 month prohibition rather than the 5 years Crown had been seeking.  Further, rather than having to forfeit the  $15,000 worth of weapons that police seized,  Crown agreed to allow our client to sell them to a suitable buyer.

R. vs. C.B. - Vancouver Police Investigation

Charge: Possession of proceeds of crime.
Issue: Whether there was any lawful authority to arrest our client and seize funds from him.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the investigating officer that there was no basis to search our client and to return the $2400 cash that he had seized. No charges approved. Not criminal record.

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.