Can You Go To Jail For Keying a Car?

Answer: Yes, you can go to jail for keying a car, depending upon costs of the damage and your previous criminal history.

In the article that follows, we’ll explain.

Can You Go To Jail For Keying a Car? (Discussion)


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Criminal Charges Associated With Keying a Car

There are several potential charges (or even civil citations) that could result from keying someone else’s car, and they may have different names depending on where you live.

The first likely charge is commonly called “criminal mischief.”

Criminal mischief is a broad offense that is used when property is moved, meddled with, damaged, or destroyed.

There are several levels of criminal mischief, usually a few levels of misdemeanors and then a few levels of felonies.

The levels are broken up by the value of the damage, and the mental state of the alleged offender.

For example, someone who carelessly causes damage versus someone who recklessly causes damage versus someone who intentionally causes damage, intentional being more serious than careless or reckless.

The less damage caused, the more likely the offense is charged as a misdemeanor.

The more damage caused, the more likely the offense is charged as a felony.

A person who keys a car could also be charged with disorderly conduct (that’s acting in a way that disturbs the public), trespass, violation of a protective order (if there is one), harassment, and more.

Jail Time For Car Keying?

There are several factors that play into whether an individual who keys a car gets sentenced to jail.

First and foremost, the seriousness of the offense will determine whether jail is on the line, and if so, what the range is (is there a mandatory minimum, and what the max is).

The next relevant factor is the number of offenses that result from the same criminality, or whether they were subsequent episodes that were charged separately.

If the offenses were part of the same criminal episode, the dollar value of the harm may be lumped together, which could result in one felony charge.

If the offenses were separate criminal episode, they could result in separate convictions which could impact the sentence (the more criminal history you have, the more likely you’ll get jail).

The next relevant factor is the criminal history of the offender.

While multiple convictions from the current trouble can result in jail time, prior criminal history of convictions can also push a case out of probation and into a jail sentence.

After these three factors, the court may also consider many other aspects of the case, including facts/circumstances of the crime, whether the behavior was intentional, what the offender intended by the action (to scare, to annoy), the victim’s statement to the court, the offender’s remorse, and whether the offender has already made efforts to pay restitution.

Other factors that may come into play are:

  • whether there’s jail space for someone to serve time for keying a car
  • whether the offender has a job, or attends school
  • whether the offender has a support network (family)
  • whether the offender has a family to support (children, spouse)

Will You Go To Jail For Keying a Car?

We have no idea whether you will go to jail for keying a car.

As we talked about above, so many factors are part of the determination that someone on the internet without those facts couldn’t possibly guess.

That being said, if a person who keyed the car caused minimal damage, has no prior criminal history, has expressed remorse and regret for the actions, and has already gathered the money together to pay for the damages, this person is less likely to be sentenced to jail.

In the same vein, if a person who has keyed the car did damage to multiple vehicles, has significant criminal history or convictions for the same behavior, is unwilling to take responsibility, and has made no efforts to get money together to pay for the damages, the person is more likely to be sentenced to jail.

Questions About Criminal Charges For Keying a Car?

Reach out to a criminal defense lawyer who practices in the community where the keying occurred.

The lawyer will be able to provide information, advice, and strategic guidance to someone who has been charged with a crime for keying a car, or is afraid that he might be soon.

Wrap Up

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Can You Go To Jail For Keying a Car