Crime of Malicious Mischief in Mississippi

Malicious Mischief and Vandalism in Mississippi

“Malicious mischief” sounds like something the prosecutor would charge Rumplestiltskin with, but it is actually a serious crime, with serious consequences if you are convicted.  The essence of the crime is that you have done something to someone’s property.  According to Mississippi Code Annotated § 97-17-67, you are guilty of malicious mischief if you “maliciously or mischievously destroy, disfigure, or injure, or cause to be destroyed, disfigured, or injured, any property of another, either real or personal.”  You don’t have to do it on purpose, but only with “malice,” which means you do it with an evil intent, or for the wrong purpose.

What are the penalties for malicious mischief?

The penalties for malicious mischief in Mississippi depend on the value of the property.  If the property you destroyed, disfigured, or injured is $500.00 or less, the crime is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1000.00, or jail of up to one year, or both.  If the property is worth more than $500.00, the crime is a felony, with a fine of up to $10,000.00, or jail of up to five years, or both.  The statute also makes restitution mandatory (you will have to pay back the cost of repairing or replacing the property).

What is the difference in “malicious mischief” and plain old “vandalism”?

Sometimes legal definitions are different than what we intuitively think they are.  If you go up in someone’s driveway and paint their Mississippi State Bulldog green and gold, then you probably are guilty of malicious mischief, but you may also be thinking “vandalism.”  Mississippi actually has a vandalism statute, and it applies mainly to public property.  Specifically, the statute applies to “burial vaults, urns, memorials, vases, foundations, bases or other similar items in a cemetery, . . . any of the work, materials, or furniture of any courthouse or jail, or other public building, or schoolhouse or church, or . . . any of the walls or other parts thereof, or shall write, or make any drawings or character, or do any other act, either on or in said building or the walls thereof, or shall deface or injure the trees, fences, pavements, or soil, on the grounds belonging thereto, or an ornamental or shade tree on any public road or street leading thereto. . . .”  See Miss Code Ann. § 97-17-39.  So the main difference is that malicious mischief applies mainly to private property, and vandalism applies mainly to public property.

What should I do if charged with these crimes?

Obviously these laws apply to everyone, but our clients tend to be juveniles (surprised?).  We have had some success winning these cases, or at least getting the best possible result so that someone’s future is not affected.  Give us a call for an appointment.  We are here to help.