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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. M.P. - ICBC insurance fraud investigation.

Charge: Insurance fraud.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to steer our client through the investigation by helping our client rectify the fraudulent information that he had provided to I.C.B.C. No charges approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.B. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Causing Bodily Harm; Assault Police Officer.
Issue: Given our client's severe mental health issues, whether he was criminally responsible for the offences.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information about our client's mental health history to Crown counsel and, ultimately, was able to persuade Crown to end the prosecution. Stay of proceedings. No jail. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Mischief Under $5000.,br> Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information about our client to Crown counsel and was able to persuade Crown that there was no public interest in prosecuting this matter. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. B.C. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Mischief Under $5000.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information about our client to Crown counsel and was able to persuade Crown that there was no public interest in prosecuting this matter. No charge approved. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether this road rage incident was a criminal offence or a consensual fight.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to present Crown counsel with video evidence which confirmed that the complainant had engaged in a consensual altercation. Stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. K.Y. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether the 18 month jail sentence Crown had sought was reasonable in all the circumstances.
Result: Mr. Johnson provided information to the Crown and Court and ultimately persuaded the trial judge to sentence our client to a 7 month conditional sentence , followed ny 18 months probation. No jail.

R. vs. G.W. - North Vancouver RCMP Investigation

Charge: Assault with a weapon.
Issue: Whether there was sufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able collect information from a defence witness and represent to police that our client should not  be prosecuted. Police concluded their investigation without recommending any criminal charge against our client. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Assault with a Weapon.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we directed our client to complete, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown counsel to not approve any charge prior to the scheduled first court appearance. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.L. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Possession of a loaded prohibited firearm; Unlawful storage of firearms.
Issue: Whether the warrant used to search our client's premises was lawful; whether our client posed a risk to re-offend.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to point to potential flaws in the warrant and police search which culminated in Crown's agreement to not pursue their original sentencing position of a 2-3 year jail sentence. Rather, the court accepted a joint submission of a 12 month conditional sentence with a curfew for the first six months. No jail.

R. vs. M.K.A. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault with a Weapon (x2).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the court to grant our client a conditional discharge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to direct our client through a course of rehabilitative counselling, and after hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the trial judge granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

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

Charges: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps that we were able to guide our client through, whether there was a public interest in continuing with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to amend the bail condition to allow "permissive contact" with the complainant, and after providing Crown with a report from our client's psychologist Crown counsel ended the prosecution. Stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

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

Charges: Sexual assault; Unlawful Confinement; Assault by Choking.
Issue: Given the impact of the additional evidence that Mr. Johnson provided to Crown counsel, whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Crown counsel agreed that the new evidence significantly undermined the strength of the case.  Crown counsel entered a stay of proceedings, bringing the prosecution to an end. No jail. No 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.