In Canada, mischief is a criminal offence that refers to the wilful or reckless destruction of another person’s property, or the interference with another person’s property. Mischief is often the charge that will be laid following an act of vandalism. While the term ‘mischief’ might make it seem as though the offence is not a grave one, this is not the case. Mischief is a serious criminal offence in Canada, and if unsuccessfully defended, will lead to a criminal record, fines, probation, and sometimes even time spent in prison.
There are four instances where you will be guilty of committing criminal mischief:
- When you have wilfully or intentionally destroyed or damaged someone else’s property.
- When you have rendered property dangerous, useless, inoperative, or ineffective.
- When you have obstructed or interfered with the lawful use of someone else’s property.
- When you have obstructed or interfered with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment, or operation of property.
In order to prove that you are guilty of mischief, the Crown Prosecutor will need to prove that:
- It was you who commit the offence;
- That you did not own the property that you interfered with or destroyed;
- The state of the property prior to the offence; and,
- That there was real damage was done to the property, or that you interfered with the property in some real way.
It is important to note that no matter how slight the damage was so, long as there was real damage to property and the Crown can demonstrate all elements of the offence, you can be convicted of mischief. In fact, even if there was no tangible physical damage, you can still be convicted of mischief if it can be proven that there was some sort of interference with the normal use and enjoyment of another person’s property. For example, you can be found guilty of mischief if it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you interfered with someone’s quiet enjoyment of their party by making excessive noise as their neighbour, or by holding a large and very disruptive party.
You Can Be Charged With Mischief For Destroying Your Own Property!
While it may seem as though you cannot be charged with mischief if you destroy property that you own, this is not always the case. If you destroy your own property with the intent to defraud, you may be charged with mischief.
In addition, you may also be charged with mischief if you damage or destroy property that is jointly owned, such as matrimonial property. In circumstances where the property is jointly owned, or where another person has an interest in the property that was damaged, the Crown is not required to prove that there was an intention to defraud. Simply damaging or destroying property that also belonged to someone else is all that is needed for the Crown to charge you with mischief.
The Penalty for Mischief in Canada:
There is a range of sentences that can follow a conviction for mischief in Canada, and the penalty that you face will depend heavily on the circumstances of your offence as well as your personal circumstances. Generally speaking, however, mischief is a hybrid offence which means that the Crown Prosecutor can chose to prosecute by indictment or by summary conviction. If the Crown chooses to proceed by indictment, and if the value of the property that you damaged exceeds $5000.00, you are looking at the potential for as much as 10 years in prison. If the property was less than $5000.00 and the Crown chooses to proceed by indictment, you will be liable to a term of imprisonment that does not exceed 2 years. If the Crown Prosecutor chooses to proceed by way of summary conviction, you will be liable of up to 6 months spent in prison. However, if you endangered life as a result of your mischief, you can be liable for as much as life spent in prison.