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Criminal Jury Instructions

Criminal Jury Instructions Home

9.5-8 Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree -- § 53a-117 (a) (2)

Revised to December 1, 2007

The defendant is charged [in count __] with criminal mischief in the third degree. The statute defining this offense reads in pertinent part as follows:

a person is guilty of criminal mischief in the third degree when, having no reasonable ground to believe that (he/she) has a right to do so, (he/she) damages tangible property of another by negligence involving the use of any potentially harmful or destructive force or substance, such as, but not limited to, fire, explosives, flood, avalanche, collapse of building, poison gas or radioactive material.

For you to find the defendant guilty of this charge, the state must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

Element 1 - Damaged property
The first element is that the defendant damaged tangible property of another. "Tangible" means that the property is something that can be felt and seen. The statute is concerned with actual, physical damage to property.

[<Insert if applicable:> This "other person" need not have had a complete, absolute, or exclusive right to the property. It is enough if (he/she) had a right to possess it or shared some such right with someone else.]

Element 2 - Negligence
The second element is that the damage to the property was caused by the defendant's negligence involving the use of a potentially harmful force or substance. <Describe specific allegations.>

Common-law negligence is the failure to use reasonable care under the circumstances. Reasonable care is the care that a reasonably prudent person would use in the same circumstances. Thus, negligence is doing something that a reasonably prudent person would not do under the circumstances, or failing to do what a reasonably prudent person would do under the circumstances. The use of proper care in a given situation is the care that an ordinarily prudent person would use in view of the surrounding circumstances. In determining the care that a reasonably prudent person would use in the same circumstances, you should consider all of the circumstances which were known or should have been known to the defendant at the time of the conduct in question. Whether care is reasonable depends upon the dangers that a reasonable person would perceive in those circumstances. It is common sense that the more dangerous the circumstances, the greater the care that ought to be exercised.

Before determining whether the defendant used reasonable care, you must determine whether the defendant owed another person a duty of care. The test of the existence of a duty to use reasonable care is to be found in the foreseeability that harm of the general nature as that which occurred may result if that care is not exercised. Therefore, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, in view of the circumstances as (he/she) knew them or in the reasonable exercise of (his/her) faculties should have known them, should have reasonably anticipated that unless (he/she) used reasonable care, harm of the same general nature as that which did occur would or could occur.

Element 3 - No right
The third element is that the defendant had no reasonable ground to believe that (he/she) had a right to damage the property. A "reasonable ground to believe" means that a reasonable person in the defendant's situation, viewing the circumstances from the defendant's point of view, would have shared that belief.

Conclusion

In summary, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1) the defendant damaged the tangible property of another, 2) the damage was caused by the defendant's negligence involving the use of any potentially harmful or destructive force or substance, specifically <insert specific allegations>, and 3) (he/she) had no reasonable ground to believe that (he/she) had a right to damage the property.

If you unanimously find that the state has proved beyond a reasonable doubt each of the elements of the crime of criminal mischief in the third degree, then you shall find the defendant guilty. On the other hand, if you unanimously find that the state has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any of the elements, you shall then find the defendant not guilty.
 


 

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