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There have been arrests detailed in the media where people are charged with both mischief and breaking and entering for a crime they allegedly committed. One instance that occurred in the Ottawa Valley saw four people charged with break and enter and a variety of mischief offences for a string of home, cottage and hunting camp break-ins.

So why are breaking and entering and mischief different and yet seemingly tied together? First, you need to know the distinctions between the two.

What is Breaking and Entering?

As discussed in a previous Armoured Suits article on this topic, breaking and entering is:

[W]hen you trespass or attempt to trespass on private property with the intent to commit an indictable, or serious, offence. Typically, this is where you break into a retailer or private home to steal property, but can also include breaking into a vehicle such as a trailer or a pen that holds fur-bearing animals for breeding or commercial purposes. The evidence in these cases is usually circumstantial, so Crown prosecutors will try to establish your identity and guilt as the person who committed the crime by being found with the stolen item or items in your possession some time later.

Breaking and entering a residential dwelling is punishable by up to life in prison. (However, some provinces have sent a benchmark on breaking and entering at three years.) If you break and enter a premise other than a residential home, you can get up to 10 years in jail as an indictable offence and six month on a less serious summary offence.

What is Mischief?

Mischief, on the other hand, is involved with the property itself. Typically it will involve property damage caused by vandalism.

According to section 430 of Canada’s Criminal Code, mischief is generally defined as:

430. (1) Every one commits mischief who wilfully
(a) destroys or damages property;
(b) renders property dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective;
(c) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property; or
(d) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.

However, other offences that can be grouped into mischief include:

Interference with electronic data.
Causing danger to life.
Damaging religious property and war memorials.

Mischief is usually a hybrid offence, except when danger to human life is involved, and can be tried as a summary (less serious) or indictable (more serious) offence. When danger to human life is involved, the offence is always indictable and the conviction can carry a life in prison sentence.

Returning to the Original Question

So when is mischief, mischief and breaking and entering, considered breaking and entering? Well, if you break into a property, steal some valuables, and then leave — that’s breaking and entering. In the process of a break and enter, if you spray paint the walls of the victim’s home or break something, that’s mischief. So it’s entirely possible and easy for someone to be charged with breaking and entering and mischief, if one disrupts the victim’s property in the course of the act of illegally entering their home.

I’ve Been Charged

If you’ve been charged with breaking and entering, mischief or both, contact Armoured Suits Criminal Defence Lawyers by phone at 613-233-0008 or e-mail at [email protected] for a free 30-minute confidential consultation.