Back in our parents’ or maybe grandparents’ day, what’s commonly referred to as “vandalism” often wasn’t treated as seriously as it is now. Every state, including Mississippi, has laws against defacing or destroying someone else’s property.
When it’s public property, the law can be harsher. If the vandalism involves some sort of racial or religious epithet, it may be considered a hate crime.
Here in Mississippi, the crime is usually “malicious mischief. Anyone “who shall maliciously or mischievously destroy, disfigure, or injure, or cause to be destroyed, disfigured, or injured, any property of another” can face criminal charges.
The level of charge depends on how much the property is worth. For example, if it’s worth $1,000 or less, it’s typically a misdemeanor. If it’s over that, it’s a felony. The greater the value is, the greater the fine and the longer the prison sentence can be. The value is determined by ”the cost of repair or replacement of the property damaged or destroyed.” In addition to facing a fine in the thousands of dollars and potentially years behind bars, a person convicted of malicious mischief will be ordered to pay restitution to the owner.
Even if you didn’t personally damage or destroy anyone’s property, if you encouraged someone else to, you could still face malicious mischief charges. Under the law, anyone who “by any word, deed or act directly or indirectly urges, aids, abets, suggests or otherwise instills in the mind of another the will to so act” to damage property will face the same charges as the person who did it. That means if you encourage a friend to key their boyfriend’s new car because you saw him with someone else, you could both end up in jail and owing a lot of money.
Vandalism of public buildings
Vandalizing public property can bring even more serious legal consequences. Mississippi has a separate statute for “vandalism of public buildings.” This includes schools, churches and cemeteries. It applies to damage done to anything on that property, including “trees, fences, pavements, or soil,” as well as headstones, memorials, urns and vaults. Even someone who’s convicted of doing less than $500 in damage could face a year behind bars and a $1,000 fine.
If you or a family member is facing malicious mischief or related charges, it’s crucial to take them seriously. It’s wise to seek legal guidance as soon as possible.