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What Is Criminal Mischief?


In the early hours of a crisp September morning in Avon, Ohio, three men entered a Walmart. Some time after their arrival, they allegedly discharged a fire extinguisher inside the store. Police were called to the scene, but the men had already left.

The officers caught up with the three suspects as they were driving down a road. The cops pulled them over and arrested one of the men for having an open container of alcohol in a car. Another was taken into custody for criminal mischief.

How Is Criminal Mischief Defined?

Under Ohio Revised Code 2909.07, there are various elements that constitute criminal mischief. The ones that apply to the alleged incident mentioned earlier are divisions (2) and (4).

According to O.R.C. 2909.07(2) and (4), a person violates the law when they:

  • Use a device that releases a substance that could harm or be considered offensive to others, or could cause public panic. Such objects include tear gas, stink bombs, or smoke generators. When employing such a device, the individual must have done so to interfere with the use or enjoyment of a place.
  • Knowingly use a safety device without permission and to make it ineffective or unable to be used for its intended purpose.

Discharging a fire extinguisher could result in the injury of another if they are hit with or slip on the substance, and the action could also make people believe that a fire is near and they are in danger. Additionally, using one when a fire is not present means that the device cannot be used should the need arise.

Also prohibited under O.R.C. 2909.07 is:

  • Damaging one’s home if they have a mortgage and received a notice of foreclosure
  • Defacing, damaging, destroying, or tampering with someone else’s property without having permission to do so
  • Damaging, destroying, or tampering with a bench mark, triangulation station, boundary marker, or other survey station, monument, or marker
  • Setting fire to property
  • Knowingly impairing the functionality of a computer, computer system, computer network, computer software, or computer program

Depending on the specific element violated, criminal mischief is charged as a third- or first-degree misdemeanor, or a fifth- or fourth-degree felony.

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