What is Criminal Mischief?
Criminal mischief (N.J.S.A 2C:17-3) typically refers to vandalism, trespassing and damages to someone else’s property as a result of recklessness or knowing and purposeful intent on the part of the accused. This also includes tampering with another’s property such that it endangers someone or their property. The severity of the crime and the associated penalties depend on the amount of damage inflicted and other circumstances surrounding those losses, such as whether graffiti was involved or what kind of property was damaged or tampered with.
What Needs to Be Proven in a Criminal Mischief Conviction?
In order for someone to be convicted of criminal mischief, a prosecutor must first establish that the defendant damaged tangible property. This means that the property had its value or usefulness reduced as a result of the losses or damages incurred. After this, the State must prove that the property belonged to another person and not the defendant. Finally, it must be proven that the defendant acted purposefully or knowingly to cause the loss or damage.
Penalties for Criminal Mischief
A criminal mischief charge can range from a disorderly persons offense all the way up to a second degree offense in certain situations. Also note that criminal mischief can be considered a type of domestic violence depending on the circumstances.
Criminal Mischief as a Disorderly Persons Offense
If the damage is valued at less than $500, it is considered a disorderly persons offense which carries penalties of up to 6 months in jail and up to $1000 in fines.
Criminal Mischief Involving Graffiti
If the act of criminal mischief involves graffiti, then two additional penalties may be incurred. The defendant may be ordered to pay restitution to compensate the property owner for an amount equal to the damages done to the property. Community service of no less than 20 days may also be ordered, including the removal of the graffiti.
Crime Mischief in the Fourth Degree
Criminal mischief is considered a fourth degree offense under the following circumstances:
- The damages incurred are valued between $500 and $2000.
- The act involves damaging, impairing or removing air traffic devices such as lights, signs, etc.
- The act involves tampering with any airport, landing field, helipad or other aviation facility.
The penalties include a prison sentence of up to 18 months and fines of up to $10,000.
Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree
Criminal mischief is considered a third degree offense under the following circumstances:
- The damages incurred equal or exceed $2,000.
- The act involves bodily harm to another person as a result of tampering with an airport, landing strip, helipad or other aviation facility.
- The act causes significant disruption to a public utility, public transportation, or communication system.
- The act entails tampering with any grave, crypt or mausoleum with the intent of defacing, destroying or stealing any part thereof including human remains.
- The act causes the destruction, defacement or loss of property used at a research facility or that causes disruption to the facility.
The penalties include a prison sentence of 3 to 5 years and fines of up to $15,000.
Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree
Criminal Mischief is considered a second degree offense under the following circumstances:
- The act of tampering or disrupting an airport, helipad or other aviation facility or its devices such as lights, signs, or signals causes the death of another person.
- The act of damaging or tampering with a public utility, communication system or public transportation causes the death of another person.
The penalties include a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years and fines of up to $150,000.
At Schneider Freiberger, P.C., we can help you understand your rights and options and work to minimize your penalties when facing a criminal mischief charge. Contact Schneider Freiberger today to discuss your case.