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Although property crimes might not carry the same kind of social stigma as violent crimes, NJ law enforcement won’t hesitate to arrest anyone caught committing vandalism, trespassing or criminal mischief. Moreover, New Jersey prosecutors typically come down very hard on anyone charged with committing a crime against property. Whether you were caught spray painting graffiti on a wall, engaging in some late-night activity with friends on an abandoned property or destroying someone’s mailbox, you can expect to face severe penalties if you are convicted of criminal mischief. Depending on the circumstances, you may even be charged with a felony, subjecting you to state prison time.
If you or a loved one has been charged with criminal mischief, your best chance of avoiding the most significant criminal penalties is to contact a knowledgeable criminal lawyer. Bramnick, Rodriguez, Grabas, Arnold & Mangan, LLC are experienced criminal defense attorneys who have successfully represented numerous clients facing charges for property offenses, theft crimes and other criminal acts throughout Union, Somerset and Essex counties, including Union, Somerville and West Orange.
NJ legislators passed laws to discourage individuals from committing property offenses such as criminal mischief because property owners need to feel that their land and their possessions are safe. The crime of criminal mischief is addressed statutorily by N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3. The statute makes it against the law for anyone to either purposely or knowingly damage another person’s tangible property. Although criminal mischief is usually associated with vandalism or graffiti, a common example of criminal mischief is when a tenant retaliates against a landlord by destroying a rental property, which can include kicking in the front door, breaking windows or damaging carpeting.
One element of a criminal mischief charge is usually intent, which means that the prosecutor typically needs to prove that the defendant intentionally destroyed the property. However, the prosecution does not always have to meet such a high burden of proof. Since the law also specifies that you cannot damage another person’s property while either recklessly or negligently using fire, explosives or other dangerous means, it may not be necessary for the prosecutor to demonstrate that the defendant intentionally damaged the premises. Regardless of the nature of your criminal mischief charge, it is critical that you have experienced legal counsel on your side throughout the legal process.
Depending on the circumstances of your criminal mischief charge, you could be subject to severe criminal penalties. The prosecutor often has a great deal of leeway when deciding what kind of charges to file in a property crime case. For a criminal mischief charge, the level of the offense varies in accordance with the type of property that was damaged and the amount of damage caused to the property. The typical breakdown of classifications and penalties for a criminal mischief charge is as follows:
Second Degree Crime:
You face five to 10 years in state prison if:
Third Degree Crime:
You face three to five years in state prison if:
Fourth Degree Crime:
You face up to 18 months in state prison if:
Disorderly Persons Offense:
You face up to six months in the county jail, 20 days of community service and monetary restitution if:
You need to take a criminal mischief charge very seriously because the penalties can be severe. If you or a loved one has been charged with criminal mischief, or any other property offense, Bramnick, Rodriguez, Grabas, Arnold & Mangan, LLC can help you fight the charges. We are aggressive criminal defense attorneys who will do everything possible to get your charge downgraded to a lesser offense or dismissed entirely. Call us now to discuss your case or schedule a free consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Scotch Plains, Newark, Clifton, Morristown, East Brunswick or Cherry Hill, New Jersey.