Are You Facing Criminal Mischief Charges in New Jersey?
Perhaps you believed some property was abandoned, no one cared about it, or you just acted impulsively in causing damage. Nevertheless, vandalism is a criminal offense officially known as criminal mischief in the New Jersey justice system. If you were arrested for or charged with criminal mischief, an experienced criminal lawyer from the Spodek Law Group has the skill to insure that your felony or misdemeanor charge does not balloon into a life changing event. Our attorneys boast decades of combined experience. Indeed, our attorneys are almost always successful in lowering or eliminating criminal mischief charges. We represent defendants throughout the state of New Jersey, including Ocean County, Middlesex County, Bergen County, Monmouth County, Union County, Hudson County, Morris County, Essex County, Mercer County, and Somerset County. Just call our office to speak with one of our knowledgeable lawyers at no cost.
New Jersey’s Criminal Mischief Law – N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3
The New Jersey Criminal Statute N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3 states that “a person is guilty of criminal mischief if he: (1) Purposely or knowingly damages tangible property of another or damages tangible property of another recklessly or negligently in the employment of fire, explosives or other dangerous means listed in subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:17-2; or (2) Purposely, knowingly or recklessly tampers with tangible property of another so as to endanger person or property, including the damaging or destroying of a rental premises by a tenant in retaliation for institution of eviction proceedings.”
A broad spectrum of conduct that involves damaging or interfering with someone else’s property constitutes “criminal mischief” pursuant to New Jersey law. Some examples of criminal mischief are breaking a window, kicking in a person’s door, and maliciously inflicting damage to a rental property. Please be aware that criminal liability under this law is not limited to intentional damage or interference, but can also include reckless or negligent conduct under certain circumstances, such as fire, explosives or other dangerous instrumentalities. Additionally, charges that involve “tampering,” a risk of harm to property as opposed to actual physical harm (e.g. interference) is all that is necessary.
Juvenile Criminal Mischief
When juvenile criminal mischief is committed, a parent or guardian could be held liable for the resulting damage under certain circumstances. This is contained under a separate law – N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-15. That said, the vandalism alone by a minor of will not, however, suffice in imposing liability on the part of an adult. It must be demonstrated that the parent or other person acting as guardian had legal custody of the child and neglected to exercise reasonable supervision or control.
Possible Penalties for Criminal Mischief & the Degrees of Criminal Mischief
A criminal mischief charge can be second, third, or fourth-degree or even a disorderly persons offense. The degree of the offense depends entirely on the type of the property and the amount of damage involved. In accordance with State v. Tonnisen, the accused can be required to bear the burden of establishing value. In any event, criminal mischief is a disorderly persons offense where the damage involved is lower than $500 in value. If the damages are valued between $500 and $2,000 a fourth-degree charge applies. Tampering with or destroying gas, oil, water pipes, or telephone wires are is also fourth-degree criminal mischief. The charge is upgraded to a third-degree crime if the damage is $2,000 or more. In infrequent instances, criminal mischief can be raised to a second-degree crime if it involves the impairment of public service and such an interruption causes death. When the vandalism involves graffiti, the court will impose the appropriate penalties associated with the particular grade of offense and require restitution, and the defendant will also be required to perform at least 20 days of community service.
Your New Jersey Criminal Mischief Attorney
Being convicted on criminal mischief charges can have serious repercussions. The life changing ramifications include a criminal record, community service, thousands of dollars in restitution, and possibly time in jail. Nonetheless, our attorneys have the skill, knowledge and resources to make certain that our clients avoid significant negative consequences from these charges. One of our lawyers is available right now to discuss how we can assist you in defending your criminal mischief case in Essex County, Monmouth County, Ocean County, Mercer County, Union County, Middlesex County, Hudson County or Morris County. Give us a call today to speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer who will answer all of your questions and address your concerns.
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