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Criminal Mischief

Red Bank NJ Criminal Mischief Attorneys

Criminal mischief is often described as vandalism and basically describes the intentional destruction of another person’s property.  New Jersey has established a specific criminal offense for this conduct under N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3. Unfortunately, individuals often mistakenly conclude that this is a minor charge although it can actual be a felony that carries serious consequences depending on nature and value of the property that was damaged.  This statute applies to any tangible property of another including a car, house, school, computer, cell phone or even a place of business. If you were accused of this offense, you need to be extremely careful about your next move as a conviction for this charge can result in fines, restitution, community service and even a prison sentence, on top of a criminal record.

Our criminal defense firm, Marshall, Bonus, Proetta & Oliver, defends individuals charged with criminal mischief and have been doing so in Monmouth County for over two decades. Our eight criminal attorneys, including several former prosecutors in the county, handle criminal mischief throughout this area including Wall, Marlboro, Rumson, Aberdeen, Eatontown and Freehold. We are prepared to vigorously defend your charges and strive to the best outcome of your case. Call our Freehold Office or Red Bank Office for a free initial consultation with a knowledgeable criminal mischief lawyer.

New Jersey Criminal Mischief Law – N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3

As previously stated, the law governing criminal mischief is contained at 2C:17-3. This statute is designed to capture not only damage but also tampering with property. In terms of what constitutes a violation of this law, a person commits criminal mischief if they:

(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.A. 2C:17-2; or

(2) 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.

In order to convict someone of criminal mischief based on damage to property, the state must establish that you: (1) caused damage; (2) to tangible property of another; and (3) the damage was intentional or the result of a fire, explosion or other dangerous means to which you were negligent or reckless. All three elements must be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Grading of a Criminal Mischief Charge

A criminal mischief offense can come in the form of a crime of the second degree, third degree, or fourth degree, or as a disorderly persons offense. The latter three (3) grades of this charge are indictable and jurisdiction rests with the Monmouth County Superior Court, which is in Freehold NJ. A disorderly persons offense for criminal mischief is heard in local municipal courts like the ones in Howell, Belmar, Manasquan, Ocean and Tinton Falls. The following is a breakdown how an incident falls into each of these grades.

Second Degree Crime. Criminal mischief is a second degree crime if it causes a substantial interruption or impairment of public communication, transportation, supply of water, gas or power or other public service that recklessly causes a death.

Third Degree Crime. The largest segment of criminal mischief charges fall within this grade. The first way someone can be charged with third degree criminal mischief is by purposefully or knowingly causing damage of $2,000 or more to the property of another. The second way this grade can apply is by purposely or knowingly causing a substantial interruption or impairment of public communication, transportation, supply of water, gas or power or other public service. 

Fourth Degree Crime. Conduct resulting in more than $500 but less than $2,000 in damage results in fourth degree criminal mischief.

Disorderly Persons Offense. Causing $500 or less in damage is a disorderly persons offense.

If the situation is more unique and concerns criminal mischief to a research facility, a grave or crypt, graffiti, or air traffic, special rules apply with respect to grading.

Penalties for Criminal Mischief

As the above referenced statute indicates, criminal mischief is graded based on the particular facts of your case. Penalties vary according to the grade of the offense. For a third degree offense, a jail term of three (3) to five (5) years is possible. However, a probationary sentence is possible. For a fourth degree offense, a jail term of eighteen (18) months is possible. A disorderly persons offense will be handled in Municipal Court and includes up to six (6) months in county jail.

Many criminal mischief charges in Monmouth County are brought as a result of vandalism or graffiti. When this is the case, the judge may impose restitution in addition to the previously listed penalties. This means that the defendant will be required to pay the owner of the damaged property in the amount of the damaged caused by the graffiti. It is also important to note that criminal mischief may be included as a lesser included offense, for example to a charge of burglary or arson.

Eatontown NJ Criminal Mischief Lawyers

With Monmouth Mall located in Eatontown, the municipality has more criminal mischief offenses than most, especially involving cars and cell phones. Our firm maintains an office just down the road in Red Bank, as well as Freehold and Wall, and is fully equipped to fight your charge. We are, in fact, successful most cases in averting a guilty finding to this charge. If you were arrested or charged with violating 2C:17-3 in Asbury Park, Hazlet, Middletown, West Long Branch, or Holmdel, our criminal mischief lawyers possess the skill set to overcome this criminal complaint. So call our Freehold or Red Bank Office today for immediate assistance.