New Jersey Criminal Mischief Attorney
What is Criminal Mischief?
Criminal mischief is typically defined as a person causing damage to the tangible property of another individual. It is the term for vandalism under New Jersey law. A NJ criminal mischief charge can be a third- or fourth-degree crime, depending on the extent and value of the damage done. Criminal mischief charges of different degrees carry different penalties for a conviction, including up to 5 years in prison and a $15,000 fine for the most egregious vandalism charges. Any conviction for criminal mischief is a negative mark on a person’s record. As experienced property crimes attorneys in New Jersey, we understand when individuals facing criminal mischief charges need legal help, and we are here to assist you. Criminal defense attorney Jason A. Volet will do everything legally possible to prevent a conviction and secure the best available results in your case. If you are facing criminal mischief charges in New Jersey, contact the Law Office of Jason A. Volet today. Our legal team can provide you with a free initial legal consultation that is confidential and carries no further obligations on your part.
Criminal Mischief Types and Penalties in NJ
Punishment for criminal mischief, New Jersey’s vandalism offense, is based on the value of the damage to someone else’s property. The property damage may have been done purposely or caused by negligence or recklessness with fire, explosives or other potential hazards. Graffiti, which is drawing, painting or making any mark or inscription on real or personal property without the owner’s permission, may be charged as criminal mischief. In addition to punishment according to the value of the damage (see below), once convicted you will be required to pay for the damage and to perform community service, which may include removing the graffiti, if appropriate. If charged with criminal mischief, you may face:
- Conviction on a disorderly persons offense for losses of $500 or less, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.
- Conviction on a fourth-degree offense for losses of more than $500 but less than $2,000, which is punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Conviction on a third-degree offense for losses valued at $2,000 or more, which is punishable by 3 to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The degree of offense is set by statute for certain types of property. Penalties for damaging property in NJ depend on the type of property targeted. Criminal mischief is charged as a fourth-degree offense for damage to a:
- Research facility, including loss or disruption of research work
- Airport, landing field, landing strip, heliport, helistop or any other aviation facility. It becomes a third-degree offense if your actions caused injury, and a second-degree offense if it caused a death.
- Utility poles, towers, cables, and mains, associated buildings for water, gas, oil, electricity, telephone, telecommunications, cable television, or telegraph utilities.
Criminal mischief is charged as a third-degree offense for:
- Substantial interruption or impairment of public communication, transportation, supply of water, oil, gas or power, or other public services. It is a second-degree offense if the act of criminal mischief causes death.
- Tampering with a grave, crypt, mausoleum or other site where human remains are interred to desecrate, destroy or steal such human remains or any part thereof.
The criminal defense lawyers at the Law Office of Jason A. Volet can assist if you face criminal mischief charges or other similar property crimes. The consequences of a criminal conviction can affect the rest of a person’s life, making it more difficult to get a job or change jobs or pursue a college education. It is important to have a strong N.J. criminal defense lawyer if you have been accused of criminal mischief in New Jersey.
How Can You Defend Yourself from Criminal Mischief Charges in New Jersey?
Without your guilty plea, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime charged to gain a conviction. Our criminal defense team will investigate the circumstances of your arrest to determine how we can challenge the prosecution’s case. Mistaken identity is a likely defense against a criminal mischief charge, particularly if police did not catch you in the act and we can challenge interpretations of low-quality security camera images, witness testimony and/or other evidence. Other potential defenses to criminal mischief charges include:
- Establishing an alibi, that you were somewhere else when the offense allegedly occurred
- Proving that damage to the property in question was accidental
- Demonstrating your ownership of and/or rights to the damaged property
- Challenging the relationship claimed between alleged vandalism and an injury or death
When possible, we would challenge the value of damage claimed to establish that more severely punished fourth- or third-degree offense charges are not appropriate. If you had no prior record, we may seek a Conditional Discharge of the case, which results in probation after which the charge may be dismissed if you maintain a clean record. This requires the defendant to pay restitution for the damage done before the court date as well as to show remorse. Another option, if appropriate for a nonviolent first-offender, is to negotiate entry into Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI), which typically requires 1 to 3 years of court-supervised probation. This is a one-time opportunity that may require psychological and/or drug and alcohol evaluation, rehabilitation, and random urine testing. After successful completion of the intervention program, the original charges are dismissed. If you face criminal mischief charges, you have the right to a robust legal defense. A criminal mischief conviction can carry serious consequences, so you should take the charge seriously and secure experienced legal representation. Learn how criminal defense attorney Jason Volet will do everything possible under New Jersey law to keep a conviction off of your record.
Contact a New Jersey Criminal Mischief Attorney
If you or someone you care about is facing charges of criminal mischief in New Jersey, an experienced New Jersey property crime lawyer at The Law Office of Jason A. Volet in Freehold or Neptune can help protect your rights. Contact our offices today at 732-702-3785 to connect with a criminal lawyer in New Jersey and learn more about your legal options in a free, no-obligation initial legal consultation.