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Understanding Criminal Mischief in Indiana 

Nearly every state has a different name for what Indiana refers to as criminal mischief. Sometimes, it’s simply called vandalism or graffiti; in other states, it may be called the destruction of property. However, all states take this offense seriously, especially the Hoosier state. The laws on criminal mischief in Indiana are clear: the more serious the damage, the more serious the penalty.  

If you’ve been charged with or convicted of criminal mischief, you’ll need a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney to guide you through the criminal justice process. Our team employs former deputy prosecutors, now working on behalf of the accused, who have an intimate understanding of how the State tries cases of this nature. If you’d like to better understand the severity of the charges made against you or would like a second opinion on your conviction, the Indianapolis defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are here to help. Contact us today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free case consultation. 

Looking for a Criminal Defense Attorney in Indiana? Call Keffer Hirschauer LLP Today.

What is Criminal Mischief in Indiana?  

Indiana’s law on criminal mischief covers a variety criminal acts pertaining to the intentional destruction, damage, defacing of property belonging to another individual or entity. These criminal acts are commonly known as vandalism, graffiti, or more simply, the destruction of property. The penalties associated with the offense of criminal mischief vary and are based on the type of criminal act committed and the amount of damages the property has incurred.  

Generally, under Indiana Code 35-43-1-2 an act of criminal mischief in Indiana occurs when a person knowingly, recklessly, or intentionally damages or defaces property of another person without the other person’s consent commits criminal mischief, which is classified as a:  

  • Class B Misdemeanor: if the pecuniary loss* is under $750 
  • Class A Misdemeanor: if the pecuniary loss is at least $750, but less than $50,000 
  • Level 6 Felony: if the loss is at least fifty thousand dollars ($50,000); the damage causes a substantial interruption or impairment of utility service rendered to the public; the damage is to a public record; or the damage is to a law enforcement animal (as defined in Indiana Code 35-46-3-4.5). 

*Indiana’s criminal mischief laws state that pecuniary losses are the total costs incurred in inspecting, cleaning and decontaminating the property that was damaged as a result of criminal mischief.  

Institutional Mischief 

In addition to the acts described above, one may be charged with institutional criminal mischief if they recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally damage (without consent):  

  • A structure used for religious worship 
  • A school or community center 
  • The property of an agricultural operation (as defined in Indiana Code 32-30-6-1);  
  • The grounds adjacent to and owned or rented in common with a structure listed previously 
  • Property that is vacant real property (as defined in Indiana Code 36-7-36-5) or a vacant structure (as defined in Indiana Code 36-7-36-6); or property after the person has been denied entry to the property by a court order that was issued to the person; or to the general public by conspicuous posting on or around the property in areas where a person could observe the order.  

Institutional criminal mischief in Indiana is a Class A Misdemeanor. However, that offense can be elevated to a Level 6 felony if the pecuniary loss (or damage) is at least $750, but less than $50,000, and a Level 5 Felony if the pecuniary loss or damage totaled more than $50,000.  

Indiana Criminal Mischief Laws on Graffiti 

If a person is convicted of a criminal or institutional criminal mischief offense that involves graffiti, the court may, in addition to any other penalties, order the suspension or invalidation of the defendant’s driver’s license for up to one year. However, the court may rescind this order and allow the defendant to receive a license or permit before the period of suspension or invalidation has expired, if the court determines that the defendant has removed or painted over the graffiti or has made other suitable restitution. 

Controlled Substances Mischief  

When a person recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally damages property, by means of fire or explosion, while dealing, manufacturing, or attempting to deal or manufacture a controlled substance, they commit the offense of controlled substance criminal mischief in Indiana. This is classified as a Level 6 felony but can be elevated to a Level 5 felony if the offense resulted in the moderate bodily injury of another person beyond the defendant.  

Cemetery and Railroad Mischief

In addition to criminal mischief in Indiana, a person can be charged with cemetery or railroad mischief. As outlined in Indiana Code 35-43-1-2.1, cemetery mischief occurs when a person acts recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally damages a cemetery, burial ground, or a facility used for memorializing the dead; damages the grounds owned or rented by a cemetery, or a facility used for memorializing the dead; disturbs, defaces, or damages a cemetery monument or enclosure; or disturbs, defaces, or damages a grave marker, artifact, or ornamentation. 

Per the Indiana criminal mischief laws, cemetery mischief in Indiana is classified as Class A misdemeanor. However, the offense is a Level 6 felony if the pecuniary loss is at least seven hundred fifty dollars ($750) but less than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), and a Level 5 felony if the pecuniary loss is at least fifty thousand dollars ($50,000). 

Regarding cemetery mischief in Indiana, it should be noted that it is an acceptable defense that the person was acting in a proper and acceptable manner as authorized by the Historic Preservation and Archaeology laws listed in Indiana Code 14-21 (except those with agricultural purposes) and the Cemetery Association laws listed in Indiana Code 23-14 

As outlined in Indiana Code 35-43-1-2.3, railroad mischief is defined as intentionally, knowingly or recklessly damaging or defacing a locomotive, railroad care, train or equipment of a railroad company being operated on a railroad right-of-way. This law also applies to any parts of a railroad signal system, train control system, centralized dispatching system, or highway railroad grade crossing warning single on a railroad right-of-way that is owned, leased or operated by a railroad company. In addition, the law applies to any rail, switch, roadbed, viaduct, bridge, trestle, culvert, or embankment on a right-of-way owned, leased, or operated by a railroad company. 

Per the Indiana criminal mischief laws, most acts defined as railroad mischief shall be classified as a Level 6 felony. However, one may be charged with a Level 5 felony if the offense results in serious bodily injury to another person, or a Level 2 felony if the offense results in the death of another person.

Indiana Criminal Mischief Sentencing Guidelines

Depending on severity of the offense, a person convicted of criminal mischief in Indiana could face a sentence of up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. However, Indiana courts do have some discretion when imposing a sentence after a conviction. Given the sentencing ranges and the recommended “advisory sentences” contained in the Indiana Sentencing Guidelines, two offenders convicted of the same level of offense may receive completely different sentences. Why? Because Indiana law provides trial courts significant discretion when imposing a sentence, given that it is within the range set in sentencing guidelines. 

Alternative Misdemeanor Sentencing for Criminal Mischief  

If you face a Level 6 felony due to allegations of criminal mischief, or have already been convicted, an experienced Indiana criminal defense attorney may be able to successfully advocate for alternative misdemeanor sentencing.   

Two Avenues for Alternative Misdemeanor Sentencing 

  • Indiana Code 35-50-2-7: This path allows a court to enter a judgment of conviction for a Class A misdemeanor instead of the Level 6 felony (proved or admitted in court). Then, it imposes a Class A misdemeanor sentence. An offender who has already been sentenced for the Level 6 felony may petition to request alternative misdemeanor sentencing. 
  • Indiana Code 35-38-1-1.5: This path requires court and prosecutor agreement. It also requires the offender to plead guilty to the Level 6 offense and then abide by any conditions imposed by the court.  

However, it should be noted that alternative misdemeanor sentencing under either statute is limited to certain circumstances—and prohibited in others—making your choice of Indiana criminal defense attorney critical for exploring this option. 

Charged with Criminal Mischief in Indiana? Call Keffer Hirschauer LLP Today. 

Indiana criminal charges and convictions can impact your life for years to come. Why risk having to carry the weight of a criminal record? Whether you’ve been charged with misdemeanor or felony criminal mischief in Indiana, hiring a skilled, experienced criminal defense attorney will provide you with the best chance of reducing your penalties or even having the charges against you dismissed. 

If you need aggressive, but creative representation, Keffer Hirschauer LLP is here for you. When you hire an Indiana criminal defense attorney from our firm, you can reap the benefits of having former prosecutors on your side. Our team knows the Indiana criminal justice system inside and out and have an acute understanding of the strategies the prosecutor may pursue. We stand ready to protect you and your rights, and fight for the best possible outcome in your case. To begin crafting your defense, contact us today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free case consultation.  


Article Name
Understanding Criminal Mischief in Indiana?
This post describes the law on criminal mischief in Indiana, as well as how the sentencing guidelines shall apply for those convicted of this crime.
Publisher Name
Keffer Hirschauer LLP

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