Last Updated: September 22, 2023

Property Damage and Criminal Mischief

In 2023, the Legislature enacted a new section of the Utah Code – section 76-6-106.1 governing the crime of “property damage or destruction.” This new section does not create a new crime, per se, but instead separates the offense constituting property damage from the more broadly-defined offense of “criminal mischief”…

In 2023, the Legislature enacted a new section of the Utah Code – section 76-6-106.1 governing the crime of “property damage or destruction.” This new section does not create a new crime, per se, but instead separates the offense constituting property damage from the more broadly-defined offense of “criminal mischief” under section 106.

Criminal Mischief – Previous Scope of the Statute

The offense of criminal mischief has historically covered a wide range of conduct, including intentional damage to or defacing of property (aka vandalism), propelling a “missile or other object” against a motor vehicle (aka throwing snowballs), and tampering with critical infrastructure such as railroads, bridges, airports, or financial and banking systems.

Property Damage or Destruction

Property damage was by far the most commonly charged variant of the offense of criminal mischief. In 2023, the Legislature moved the provisions of the criminal mischief statute governing property damage or destruction to the newly-enacted section 76-6-106.1.

While the new section adds substantial language to the criminal code, much of the additional language is redundant with similar provisions that still remain in section 76-1-106. Following are some of the highlights.

Intentionally Damage, Deface, or Destroy

Section 106.1 on property damage or destruction includes a required mental state (mens rea) element of intent (“intentionally damages, defaces, or destroys the property of another”). In considering the element of intent, it is important to draw a distinction between intent with regard to conduct and intent with regard to a specific result.

Accidental damage (negligently or recklessly caused) is often the result of intentional conduct. For example, a person playing catch with a baseball may intentionally throw the ball that accidentally breaks a window. A person who intentionally pushes their shoulder against a door that is stuck may unintentionally cause the door jamb to break. A couple intentionally dancing together in their living room may unintentionally knock an object from a shelf and cause it to shatter on the ground.

Intent as to the conduct does not necessarily equal intent as to the result of that conduct. When defending against a property damage charge, keeping this distinction clear is important.

Level of the Offense

Section 76-6-106.1 retains the same offense level definitions that are consistent with previous criminal mischief definitions as well as general theft offense level definitions:

  • value of or in excess of $5,000 is a second degree felony;
  • value of or in excess of $1,500 but less than $5,000 is a third degree felony;
  • value of or in excess of $500 but less than $1,500 is a class A misdemeanor;
  • value of less than $500 is a class B misdemeanor.

In determining value, subsection (3)(b) allows the prosecution to consider both the actual pecuniary loss caused as well the pecuniary loss “intended” to be caused by the actor. Further, subsection (4) allows the calculation of value to include “the measurable value of the loss of use of the [property]” as well as the cost to replace or restore (repair) the property.

Originally Published: September 22, 2023

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