Criminal mischief: What it is, what it means for your child

No parent wants to hear that their child has gotten into trouble. It can be especially upsetting when he or she is accused of breaking the law.

Several things can be going through a parent’s mind in this situation. You can be scared, angry and embarrassed. You may be worried about what the allegation means and how serious it is, especially if it is a charge with which you are unfamiliar. This can often be the case when a child is accused of criminal mischief.

What is criminal mischief?

Per the Canadian Criminal Code, mischief includes a variety of behaviours, such as:

  • Vandalism
  • Destruction of property
  • Rendering property useless or ineffective, such as letting air out of car tires
  • Destroying computer data
  • Denying or interfering with computer access to a person authorized to use the computer
  • Impeding police investigations
  • Giving incorrect information to the police
  • Wasting law enforcement resources

This list encompasses a wide range of acts, including many behaviours that young people believe to be harmless pranks.

Taking the charge seriously

However, the fact is that Ottawa authorities take these offences very seriously, and there are very real penalties at stake.

The potential consequences of mischief depend on the details of an offence and the value of the damage.

A young person accused of mischief resulting in less than $5,000 of damage could face the following punishments:

  • Potential imprisonment of between 6 months and two years
  • Probation
  • Fines

Possible penalties for more severe offences, like those involving significant damage or cultural property, increase. For instance, a person could be facing imprisonment of up to 10 years in serious cases.

Mischief charges can also cause a person to lose his or her job or academic scholarships. The offence can put immense strain on personal relationships and leave a young person with a criminal record. Further, having a history of criminal mischief at a young age can expose a juvenile to additional penalties and obstacles in the future.

Knowing how a mischief charge can affect your child’s life should help parents understand the importance of seeking legal guidance to discuss a defence as soon as possible. There are remedies available and approaches to minimize the impact of an offence on a young person’s future.


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