Don’t Let the Name Fool You: “Mischief” is a Serious Criminal Offence

When you hear the word “mischief,” you may think of minor pranks or kids getting into innocuous and harmless trouble. Webster’s Dictionary defines “mischief” as “behavior or activity that is annoying but that is not meant to cause serious harm or damage.”

In the Canadian Criminal Code however, “mischief” refers to a number of activities that constitute serious criminal offences with stiff punishments.  Far from harmless, these crimes do damage to property, and in the case of “public mischief,” can waste valuable police resources and put the freedom of others at risk.

What is Criminal Mischief?

Mischief is the deliberate destruction or damage of property. It includes vandalism, like spraying slogans on a building, breaking school windows, or letting the air out of someone’s car tires. Stopping people from using their own property or interfering with someone else’s property can also be mischief.

Section 342.01 of the Criminal Code specifically makes computer hacking a form of criminal mischief.

The penalties for mischief depend on the kind and value of the property that was damaged or destroyed.  For property valued at less than $5,000, the offender can be found guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of up to two years; or may be found guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction. Where the value of the property exceeds $5,000 or for computer hacking, penalties can include up to 10 years behind bars.

Anyone who commits mischief that causes actual danger to life is guilty of an indictable offence and is subject to imprisonment for life.

“Public Mischief”

One unique form of mischief is what is known as “public mischief.” This involves providing false information to police. False information can impede investigations, waste valuable resources, and result in individuals being wrongly accused, and in some cases convicted, for crimes they did not commit.

Specifically, Section 140 of the Criminal Code defines the crime of public mischief as taking any of the following actions with intent to mislead, and which causes a law enforcement officer to enter on or continue an investigation:

  • Making a false statement that accuses some other person of having committed an offence;
  • Doing anything intended to cause some other person to be suspected of having committed an offence that the other person has not committed, or to divert suspicion from himself;
  • Reporting that an offence has been committed when it has not been committed; or
  • Reporting or in any other way making it known or causing it to be made known that he or some other person has died when he or that other person has not died.

Public mischief is punishable by up to five years in prison. The news is full of stories of people who have been accused and convicted of public mischief for falsely reporting bomb or terrorist threats, or for falsely accusing others of offences such as sexual assault.

If you have been charged with criminal mischief of any kind, you need to take the matter as seriously as do police and Crown Prosecutors. Contact an experienced Ontario criminal defence lawyer at your earliest opportunity.

Ottawa Criminal Defence Firm Engel & Associates Defends Against Even The Most Complicated Charges

Criminal lawyers Bruce Engel and Elena Davies have represented individuals and businesses charged with hundreds of different offences throughout Canada for more than two decades. From the start of a criminal investigation to the close of a trial, we will take a balanced and forceful approach to your defence. We have the experience and know-how to effectively navigate the constantly changing justice system in Canada.

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