What’s The Difference Between Mischief and Breaking & Entering?

July 25, 2019

There’s a big difference between the criminal code offences of Mischief and Breaking & Entering. Breaking and entering is when you unlawfully enter someone else’s property, whereas mischief is when you damage or destroy someone else’s property. If you’re arrested for breaking and entering, the police will likely charge you with mischief as well. But what are the consequences of each charge? In this article, we take a look at what the difference is, as well as why they are so often connected.

Mischief Everything is OK Toronto
Mischief Charges – Everything is OK Toronto.

Mischief Over & Mischief Under Offences

Mischief offences generally involve property damage, when someone intentionally destroys or damages it. Often mischief is done through vandalism. While mischief doesn’t need to be planned, it does have to be done wilfully. For instance, accidentally knocking something over isn’t mischief, but purposefully breaking it is.

The Criminal Code reads that every one commits mischief who wilfully:

  1. Destroys or alters or damages property
  2. Renders property dangerous, inoperative or ineffective
  3. Obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property
  4. Obstructs, interrupts or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property

Canadian Criminal Code S.430

Mischief can also involve digital property. This would include destroying or altering computer data. Often this is found when disgruntled employees leave are leaving a company under bad terms they will delete or alter data to cause damage to the company and prevents them from the lawful use of that data.

Typically mischief is a hybrid offence, meaning it can be tried as a summary or indictable offence. However, if it involves endangering human life it is an indictable offence.

Convicted for mischief of minor allegations, such as minor property damage, rarely involve a jail sentence upon conviction.

Breaking & Entering Offences

Breaking & entering is a criminal offence that can receive punishments ranging from a fine to life in prison. Much of the severity relies on the intention and the place broken into. For instance, if someone breaks into a home, they can face a maximum sentence of life in prison. Whereas a summary conviction for a non-dwelling has a maximum sentence of 18 months or $5,000.

Breaking & entering is what was once called burglary. The offence involves breaking into private property with the intention of committing a crime. In most cases, the crime is theft.

If someone breaks into a home when someone is home, their charges may escalate to a home invasion. Other aggravating factors in breaking and entering include:

  • Damaging property
  • Carrying tools (for breaking & entering, such as lockpicks)
  • Using a disguise
  • Using a significant level of sophistication and planning

Difference Between Mischief and Breaking & Entering

Both crimes often involve entering another person’s property. But they differ significantly in their actual application.

A clear-cut example of breaking and entering would be breaking into a home, stealing jewellery, and leaving. Whereas a clear-cut example of mischief would be someone illegally spray-painting a bridge.

Break & entry involves actively breaking into private property for the intention of a crime. Mischief, on the other hand, involves vandalizing, breaking, or meaningfully altering property that doesn’t belong to you.

Can you be Convicted on Both? Get a Criminal Record?

Breaking & Entering and Mischief charges are often charged together and upon a conviction will appear together on a criminal record. It’s not uncommon for people, especially young offenders, to commit mischief during a break & enter. For example, breaking into a retail store and spray-painting the walls could result in charges for both.

If the Crown makes their case successfully, it is possible to be convicted for both offences.

Mischief on the Streets of Toronto
Charged with mischief means that someone willfully interferes with the lawful use of property.

Hire a Toronto Theft Lawyer

If you are facing breaking & entering charges, and/or have been charged with mischief you should hire a criminal lawyer. They understand the possible defences and can provide you with a realistic view of your possible options and outcomes.

William Jaksa is a Toronto based criminal defence lawyer who has experience in defending property related offences and has focused his his entire practice on criminal law. Contact Jaksa today for a consultation. 

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