A strong pillar of the Hazlehurst community.

Understanding Mississippi’s “malicious mischief” law

On Behalf of | May 28, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

With summer comes a lot of spare time for many young people. Too often, that spare time leads them to do things they wouldn’t normally do – often at the urging of friends or even kids they barely know. Some of these things can get them in trouble with the law.

Take what’s commonly known as vandalism. Whether it’s a spur-of-the-moment art project, a gang sign or keying a person’s car to get back at them for something, it can fall under what Mississippi law calls “malicious mischief.” The law states that a person “who shall maliciously or mischievously destroy, disfigure, or injure, or cause to be destroyed, disfigured, or injured, any property of another” has engaged in malicious mischief.

What can make malicious mischief an even more serious offense?

The seriousness of the criminal charge depends on a number of factors. One is the value of the property involved. The value is defined as the cost of repair or replacement. If it’s $1,000 or less, the charge is typically a misdemeanor, but above that it’s a felony.

Malicious mischief involving public property or buildings can result in harsher charges than that to private property. Further, if the malicious mischief includes slurs against a group protected under Mississippi’s hate crime law or damage that targets one of these groups, the charge can be enhanced.

Even encouraging malicious mischief is a crime

Even if someone didn’t lay a hand on someone else’s property, if they encouraged another person to so “directly or indirectly,” according to the law, they can be charged with malicious mischief. That can be a tricky one to prove, which is why it makes sense if you see someone engaging in destructive behavior or even talking about it to get away from the situation as soon as possible. 

The penalties for a malicious mischief conviction are no slap on the wrist. They can involve time behind bars, probation, fines, restitution and more. If you or a family member is facing charges, it’s wise to seek legal guidance.