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A criminal defense may exist to vandalism charge against accused

Criminal mischief is a statutory criminal offense in New Hampshire. Under the common law and some state statutes it is also called vandalism. The offense can rise to the level of a felony if the value of the property damaged is high enough. There may be a criminal defense to the crime where the accused had a reasonable belief that he or she had a right to perform the actions.

Generally, criminal mischief is the intentional or reckless damaging of someone else's property without right and without a reasonable basis for believing that one has the right to commit the damage. Under New Hampshire law, when the amount of the damage is between $100 and $1500, it is charged as a class A misdemeanor. If it exceeds $1,500, it will usually be charged as a class B misdemeanor.

In Manchester, police recently arrested a 25-year-old man who was allegedly checking house and car doors to find a match. The Manchester police received a call at about 4:30 a.m. and proceeded to the scene where they found a man whom they described as appearing agitated. He told police that he had been locked out of his brother's car and he was so upset that he kicked and dented the vehicle. 

The car owner, however, said she didn't know the accused and that the car was undamaged when she locked it. Police also allege that the defendant knocked at the door of another witness and then walked away. There may be one or more issues in these facts that create the possibility of a defense.

In New Hampshire, as elsewhere, criminal intent or wanton recklessness must be proved to obtain a conviction on the criminal mischief charge. If the man can prove by credible evidence that he really thought that it was his brother's car, he may have a criminal defense in that he may reasonably believe that he had a right to kick it with immunity. This simply goes to the critical requirement of establishing criminal intent before an accused may be found guilty of a crime.

Source:, "Police arrest Manchester man on prowling, criminal mischief charges", Jan. 12, 2017

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