Can Criminal Mischief Charges Be Dropped?

Criminal mischief is a type of property crime in Colorado that refers to the act of knowingly damaging another person’s real or personal property. The law also refers to this crime as the crime of vandalism. Criminal mischief can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the extent of the damage. Convictions range all the way from a Class 3 misdemeanor to a Class 2 felony. 

So, can criminal mischief charges be dropped? Jeffrey Weeden answers this question and more in the following post.

How Did I Catch a Criminal Mischief Charge?

Colorado courts can convict a person of criminal mischief even if they jointly owned the property with someone. Courts can even convict a defendant if they own the property but another person had a possessory or proprietary interest in it. 

Criminal mischief, even as a misdemeanor, is a very serious crime and can have serious consequences. Often, criminal mischief arises out of a domestic dispute. In that case, Colorado’s domestic violence laws place the defendant under a mandatory domestic violence protective order until the trial, even if the damage was accidental. These protective orders can have dire consequences for your future, even separate from any convictions of criminal mischief.

At WeedenLaw, attorney Jeff Weeden understands that mistakes happen and that the law will oftentimes punish those mistakes with undue severity. In this post, Mr. Weeden will explain Colorado’s criminal mischief laws, the possible consequences, and how to beat your criminal mischief charges.

What is Criminal Mischief in Colorado?

As we mentioned above, criminal mischief is damage to another person’s property. It can be anything from graffiti to defacing property to actually destroying property. 

Can my Criminal Mischief charge be dropped if it was an accident?

There is no part of the law that requires the damage to be intentional. The defendant does not need to act with the intent of damaging property. The defendant only needs to be reasonably aware that property damage will result. This is sufficient for criminal mischief to apply. 

For example, say a college-age boy is driving his car recklessly in a parking lot for fun. He is doing donuts driving too fast. He loses control and crashes his car into a building, damaging it.

Of course, he didn’t mean to crash his car and damage that building. But any reasonable person would have known that it was very possible. Thus, depending on the amount of damage, this fictional young man could face felony charges.

This is also a good example of how even something that seems harmless, like doing donuts in a parking lot, could lead to very serious charges.

Before we talk about “Can criminal mischief charges be dropped?” let’s talk about the possible penalties of criminal mischief.

Can Criminal Mischief Charges Be Dropped: Penalties 

Penalties for criminal mischief in Colorado depend entirely on the value of the damaged property. 

Less than $300

Criminal mischief against a property worth less than $300 is a Colorado class 3 misdemeanor. The possible penalties are:

  • 3-12 months in jail, and/or
  • A fine of $250-$1000

$300 or more, but less than $750

For property with a value between $300 and $750, criminal mischief is a Colorado class 2 misdemeanor. The potential consequences are:

  • 3-12 months in jail, and/or
  • A fine of $250-$1000

$750 or more, but less than $1000

Criminal mischief involving property valued between $750 and $1000 is a Class 1 misdemeanor, the most serious misdemeanor in Colorado. The penalties could be:

  • 6-18 months in jail, and/or
  • A fine of $500-$5000

$1000 or more, but less than $5000

This is a Colorado class 6 felony. The possible penalties are:

  • 1-1½ years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of $1000-$100,000

$5000 or more, but less than $20,000

Criminal mischief involving property valued between $5000 and $20,000 is a class 5 felony. The penalties are:

  • 1-3 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of $1000-$100,000

$20,000 or more, but less than $100,000

This is a Colorado class 4 felony. The possible penalties are:

  • 2-6 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of $2000-$500,000

$100,000 or more, but less than $1,000,000

This stage of criminal mischief is a class 3 felony. The possible penalties are:

  • 4-12 years in prison, and/or 
  • A fine of $3000-$750,000

$1,000,000 or more

Obviously, this is the most serious crime and has the most serious charges. It is a Colorado class 2 felony with possible penalties of:

  • 8-24 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of $5000-$1,000,000

How Can Criminal Mischief Charges Be Dropped?

There are several viable legal defenses to criminal mischief. Some of the common defenses include:

False Identity 

Criminal mischief charges can arise due to false identification. Mistaken identity through surveillance footage can occur. Sometimes, police will arrest someone who just matches the description of a suspect. 

In cases like these, a lawyer will attempt to show the court the defendant was not the person who committed the act. They will usually do this by producing an alibi.

Amount of Damage 

In some cases, lawyers can call the value of the items into question. If you look above, you’ll notice the dollar amount of the items in question can drastically change the possible penalties. The prosecution will usually attempt to push the value of the items as high as they can. An experienced attorney will fight to lower the penalties you are facing.

It Was An Accident 

Of course, we’ve already talked about how the law doesn’t require criminal mischief to be intentional. But if your attorney can prove that you had no reason to know property damage would occur, the court may drop your criminal mischief charges. 


It is not a crime if you damage property in the course of reasonable self-defense. The police may misconstrue valid self-defense as an act of aggression and charge you.

Contact WeedenLaw To Discuss Your Criminal Mischief Charges

If you’re wondering when to hire a criminal defense attorney, the time is NOW! Jeffery Weeden is an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney serving the Denver area. For more information about how to beat criminal mischief charges, contact WeedenLaw at 720.307.4330 to set up a free consultation. You can also send us a direct message on our website. Phone lines are available 24/7, and collect calls from inmates are accepted.

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