If you’re a parent, you know that kids — particularly teenagers — do some really foolish things. Teens are old enough to want to express their individuality and opinions, but not quite old enough to always understand the full consequences of their actions.

Is it any surprise, then, that some of them get into trouble for things like vandalism and graffiti? Maybe your teenager got into a verbal spat with a teacher and took their frustrations out later by poking holes in a couple of the tires on that teacher’s car. Maybe your child is a budding artist who felt inspired to tag the base of a monument in the city square. Such acts are defined by Iowa’s laws as “criminal mischief.”

How much trouble is your teen in? Plenty. Depending on the circumstances, your child may be looking at anything from a misdemeanor to a felony that could land them behind bars.

Generally, the dollar amount of the damage that your teen’s actions caused will determine the charge. For example, if that teacher’s tires cost between $300 and $750 to replace, your teen would likely be charged with criminal mischief in the fourth degree — a misdemeanor. On the other hand, if the total restoration of that defaced statue cost more than $1,500 (but less than $10,000), your child is looking at a Class D felony.

If the court decides that your teen was motivated by prejudice and declares their actions a hate crime, the charges can be enhanced — regardless of the dollar value involved.

You don’t want your teen’s attempts at self-expression to cost them their future. If your child is charged with a property crime, get legal assistance as soon as possible.