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UER Forum > UE Encyclopedia > Criminal Mischief (Viewed 9520 times)
Entry: Criminal Mischief
originally posted by CopySix

[last edit 1/25/2013 3:39 AM by Screef - edited 3 times]

Criminal Mischief

Under most US and Canadian law, a person may be found guilty of some form of mischief when that person intentionally participates in the destruction of an abandoned building.

In the United States, this charge is of the fourth degree, and thus a misdemeanor.

In Canada, however, it is an indictable offence, and depending on the nature of it, the charges range from a summary conviction (ticket) to life imprisonment. If your destruction of property constitutes, in the following approximate priority:

  • Endangerment to life (you make a deathtrap), life in prison.
  • Damage to a place or object of worship, with the intent to commit a hate crime, 18 months (summary) to 2 years.
  • Damage to something worth more than $5000, cultural property, or data (records), a ticket to 10 years.
  • Damage to anything else, a ticket to 2 years.

The prosecution generally must be able to demonstrate that the Urban Explorer willfully intended to vandalize some property, or in the US, an abandoned building. In your defence, you should show evidence of your 'hobby' and your ethics "Take only pictures, leave only footprints."

Sadly, having a sweet portfolio and a best-selling coffee-table book may not be enough credibility. The offense varies upon the state (and obviously by country) and there really is no uniformity. There are a few items that are just about universal.
* Usually, if the property is posted, the grading of the offense usually rises (find a plausible entry-point that is devoid of signs). In Canada, this has nothing to do with mischief, but will make trespassing more severe.
* Barriers (doors, fences, barricades, motes, windows)(In British Columbia and other provinces rivers, shrubs, and other natural elements can legally be called fencing for prosecuting a trespassing charge) bypassed in many states is evidence that you are intentionally trespassing. It may also be called break and enter, and in any case will make trespassing worse for you under Canadian law.
* Usually, if there is evidence that the building is being used or occupied, the severity of the offence increases. In Canada, if it is a "dwelling-place," you will usually go to jail.
* In American states that have "castle doctrine" (FL, TX, VA - and more) the owner/occupier may shoot and kill you for trespassing on private land/property. In Canada, the property owner is generally justified in using "as much force as necessary" to remove you, and if you resist, it is an unprovoked assault on the owner.

It is also important to note that they can always charge you with trespassing instead, or as well.

The specific laws in Canada are, as usual, in the Criminal Code (

The following applies only to the United States:

As far as the mechanics, Most state laws specify and name an act that is forbidden: eg spitting on the sidewalk.
The law then describes "elements of the offense" - meaning things you must do to be in violation.
Common to all criminal violations is that it matters not if the act was committed "Knowingly, Recklessly, Intentionally, or Negligibly" you still did it, you have still committed a crime, and the police are completely with their rights to arrest you.
Note the extract below from California law. There is a section dedicated strictly to INDUSTRIAL locations.

SECTION 552-555.5

552. This article does not apply to any entry in the course of duty
of any peace or police officer or other duly authorized public
officer, nor does it apply to the lawful use of an established and
existing right of way for public road purposes.

552.1. This article does not prohibit:
(a) Any lawful activity for the purpose of engaging in any
organizational effort on behalf of any labor union, agent, or member
thereof, or of any employee group, or any member thereof, employed or
formerly employed in any place of business or manufacturing
establishment described in this article, or for the purpose of
carrying on the lawful activities of labor unions, or members
(b) Any lawful activity for the purpose of investigation of the
safety of working conditions on posted property by a representative
of a labor union or other employee group who has upon his person
written evidence of due authorization by his labor union or employee
group to make such investigation.

553. The following definitions apply to this article only:
(a) "Sign" means a sign not less than one (1) square foot in area
and upon which in letters not less than two inches in height appear
the words "trespassing-loitering forbidden by law," or words
describing the use of the property followed by the words "no
(b) "Posted property" means any property specified in Section 554
which is posted in a manner provided in Section 554.1.
(c) "Posted boundary" means a line running from sign to sign and
such line need not conform to the legal boundary or legal description
of any lot, parcel, or acreage of land, but only the area within the
posted boundary shall constitute posted property, except as
otherwise provided in subdivision (e) of Section 554. 1.

554. Any property, except that portion of such property to which
the general public is accorded access, may be posted against
trespassing and loitering in the manner provided in Section 554.1,
and thereby become posted property subject to the provisions of this
article applicable to posted property, if such property consists of,
or is used, or is designed to be used, for any one or more of the
(a) An oil well, oilfield, tank farm, refinery, compressor plant,
absorption plant, bulk plant, marine terminal, pipeline, pipeline
pumping station, or reservoir, or any other plant, structure, or
works, used for the production, extraction, treatment, handling,
storage, or transportation, of oil, gas, gasoline, petroleum, or any
product or products thereof.
(b) A gas plant, gas storage station, gas meter, gas valve, or
regulator station, gas odorant station, gas pipeline, or
appurtenances, or any other property used in the transmission or
distribution of gas.
(c) A reservoir, dam, generating plant, receiving station,
distributing station, transformer, transmission line, or any
appurtenances, used for the storage of water for the generation of
hydroelectric power, or for the generation of electricity by water or
steam or by any other apparatus or method suitable for the
generation of electricity, or for the handling, transmission,
reception, or distribution of electric energy.
(d) Plant, structures or facilities used for or in connection with
the rendering of telephone or telegraph service or for radio or
television broadcasting.
(e) A water well, dam, reservoir, pumping plant, aqueduct, canal,
tunnel, siphon, conduit, or any other structure, facility, or
conductor for producing, storing, diverting, conserving, treating, or
conveying water.
(f) The production, storage, or manufacture of munitions,
dynamite, black blasting powder, gunpowder, or other explosives.
(g) A railroad right-of-way, railroad bridge, railroad tunnel,
railroad shop, railroad yard, or other railroad facility.
(h) A plant and facility for the collection, pumping,
transmission, treatment, outfall, and disposal of sanitary sewerage
or storm and waste water, including a water pollution or quality
control facility.
(i) A quarry used for the purpose of extracting surface or
subsurface material or where explosives are stored or used for that

554.1. Any property described in Section 554 may be posted against
trespassing and loitering in the following manner:
(a) If it is not enclosed within a fence and if it is of an area
not exceeding one (1) acre and has no lineal dimension exceeding one
(1) mile, by posting signs at each corner of the area and at each
(b) If it is not enclosed within a fence, and if it is of an area
exceeding one (1) acre, or contains any lineal dimension exceeding
one (1) mile, by posting signs along or near the exterior boundaries
of the area at intervals of not more than 600 feet, and also at each
corner, and, if such property has a definite entrance or entrances,
at each such entrance.
(c) If it is enclosed within a fence and if it is of an area not
exceeding one (1) acre, and has no lineal dimension exceeding one (1)
mile, by posting signs at each corner of such fence and at each
(d) If it is enclosed within a fence and if it is of an area
exceeding one (1) acre, or has any lineal dimension exceeding one (1)
mile, by posting signs on, or along the line of, such fence at
intervals of not more than 600 feet, and also at each corner and at
each entrance.
(e) If it consists of poles or towers or appurtenant structures
for the suspension of wires or other conductors for conveying
electricity or telegraphic or telephonic messages or of towers or
derricks for the production of oil or gas, by affixing a sign upon
one or more sides of such poles, towers, or derricks, but such
posting shall render only the pole, tower, derrick, or appurtenant
structure posted property.

555. It is unlawful to enter or remain upon any posted property
without the written permission of the owner, tenant, or occupant in
legal possession or control thereof. Every person who enters or
remains upon posted property without such written permission is
guilty of a separate offense for each day during any portion of which
he enters or remains upon such posted property.

555.1. It is unlawful, without authority, to tear down, deface or
destroy any sign posted pursuant to this article.

555.2. It is unlawful to loiter in the immediate vicinity of any
posted property. This section does not prohibit picketing in such
immediate vicinity or any lawful activity by which the public is
informed of the existence of an alleged labor dispute.

555.3. Violation of any of the provisions of this article is a

555.4. The provisions of this article are applicable throughout the
State in all counties and municipalities and no local authority shall
enact or enforce any ordinance in conflict with such provisions.

555.5. If any provision of this article, or the application thereof
to any person or circumstance, is held to be invalid, the remainder
of the article, and the application of such provision to other
persons or circumstances, shall not be affected thereby.
If any section, subsection, sentence, clause, or phrase of this
article is for any reason held to be unconstitutional or invalid,
such decision shall not affect the validity or constitutionality of
the remaining portions of this article. The Legislature hereby
declares that it would have passed this article and each section,
subsection, sentence, clause, or phrase thereof, irrespective of the
fact that one or more of the sections, subsections, sentences,
clauses, or phrases thereof be declared unconstitutional or invalid.


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