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Criminal Mischief in New Jersey

New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer

Criminal mischief in New Jersey is a property damage crime that is usually charged against individuals that have harmed physical property. Some common instances include graffiti or breaking a window on a house owned by another individual. Many offenders realize their actions resulted from a brief moment of poor judgment or anger, but a charge on your permanent record carries lifelong consequences. The charged crime could show up on background checks and affect your job opportunities, credit, and housing.

Examples of Criminal Mischief:

  • Graffiti, drawing, spray painting, or marking someone‚Äôs property
  • Tampering with human remains from gravesite or other site
  • Removing traffic signs or other devices used for traffic safety
  • Damaging rental property
  • Damaging public property such as a city bus
  • Endangering another person by tampering with property

hand with spray paint can and wall covered in graffiti in background

Charges and Penalties for Criminal Mischief

The severity of the charge depends on the type of property that was damaged and how much the damage costs. For property damage under $500, defendants will be charged with a disorderly persons offense. This can carry a jail sentence up to six months. The offender will also be subject to a fine of up to $1000 and potentially more if a motor vehicle was used in the crime.

If the damage is valued between $500 and $2000, the defendant will be charged with criminal mischief in the fourth degree. It is also a fourth degree offense if the crime involves air traffic devices such as lights or signals. The offender will face up to a maximum of 18 months in prison. If the crime involves injury to another person, it can be elevated to a third degree offense.

A third degree offense occurs when a property crime causes more than $2,000 in losses. Acts that disrupt a research facility, damage a grave with intent to tamper with human remains, or impair a public service can also be labeled as third degree offenses. These offenses carry a prison sentence of three to five years.

It is possible in some cases to lessen or avoid a criminal mischief charge altogether. An experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer can evaluate these options to determine the most effective legal strategy. Often the victim of the crime wants their property repaired or replaced which can make a plea deal more likely. If the situation involves relationships or substance abuse, completing counseling or a substance abuse program may also help an individual charged with criminal mischief. The main goal should be to avoid a permanent criminal record, but each case is different and the options may vary.