NJ Criminal Mischief – NJ Criminal Mischief Charges N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3 – N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3 Criminal Mischief Penalties
“In New Jersey, criminal mischief is considered a property damage crime, and can leave you in jail or with a permanent criminal record. These cases must be handled carefully in order to secure the best possible outcome.”
Criminal mischief typically refers to trespassing or an act of vandalism. Being accused of damaging a rental property or spraying graffiti on the side of a building could leave you with a criminal mischief charge in NJ. Because this charge can range from a disorderly persons offense all the way up to a second degree crime, the punishments vary. Regardless of the grading of your crime, you are facing jail time in addition to the other penalties outlined below.
The Tormey Law Firm is an aggressive criminal trial team that includes an active NJ prosecutor, and we are dedicated to providing the most effective defense for your charge. We have extensive experience handling property crimes, including criminal mischief, trespassing, and burglary. Having an attorney by your side might be the only way to significantly reduce your penalties and potentially have your case dismissed entirely.
Contact one of our experienced criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation. Feel free to keep reading this page for additional information about criminal mischief in New Jersey.
NJ Criminal mischief – N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3
A charge of criminal mischief can be brought when a person causes damage to property that belongs to someone else and that is visible to the naked eye.
To determine your penalty, you need to know if your charge is a second, third, fourth degree crime, or a disorderly persons offense. Click on any of those links to determine your potential penalties. If you’re not sure of the grading of your crime, the statute listed below which explains the grading process.
A conviction can also lead require thousands of dollars in restitution to the property owner for the damages. Additionally, under New Jersey law, a conviction for a subsequent criminal mischief offense can result in a MINIMUM sentence of five (5) years in jail. This is one of those occasions when New Jersey law doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Who would ever imagine that causing a little property damage could put you behind bars for five years? Trust me: you do not want to spend that much time in a New Jersey prison.
Because the prosecution must prove certain elements, there are defenses to the charge of criminal mischief. For instance, if you own any part of the property that was damaged, you might have a viable defense. Beyond that, if the property was damaged as a result of a traffic accident for which you were not at fault, you might have another defense against the charge.
However, unless you’re familiar with courtroom procedure, these defenses are better left to a professional.
Call the New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at the Tormey Law Firm for a free consultation about your criminal mischief charge.
We understand the arguments that the prosecution will make if you case goes to trial and we know how help you to avoid criminal mischief penalties. With an experienced criminal trial team, we have the strategies that can lead to a win in the courtroom.
Please contact us today for a free consultation so that we can begin to consider the details of your case and formulate an effective response to the charges against you.
N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3 – Criminal Mischief Statute
a. Offense defined. A person is guilty of criminal mischief if he or she:
(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.2C:17-2; or
(2) Purposely, knowingly or recklessly 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.
(1) Criminal mischief is a crime of the third degree if the actor purposely or knowingly causes pecuniary loss of $2,000.00 or more.
(2) Criminal mischief is a crime of the fourth degree if the actor causes pecuniary loss in excess of $500.00 but less than $2,000.00. It is a disorderly persons offense if the actor causes pecuniary loss of $500.00 or less.
(3) Criminal mischief is a crime of the third degree if the actor damages, defaces, eradicates, alters, receives, releases or causes the loss of any research property used by the research facility, or otherwise causes physical disruption to the functioning of the research facility. The term “physical disruption” does not include any lawful activity that results from public, governmental, or research facility employee reaction to the disclosure of information about the research facility.
(4) Criminal mischief is a crime of the fourth degree if the actor damages, removes or impairs the operation of any device, including, but not limited to, a sign, signal, light or other equipment, which serves to regulate or ensure the safety of air traffic at any airport, landing field, landing strip, heliport, helistop or any other aviation facility; however, if the damage, removal or impediment of the device recklessly causes bodily injury or damage to property, the actor is guilty of a crime of the third degree, or if it recklessly causes a death, the actor is guilty of a crime of the second degree.
(5) Criminal mischief is a crime of the fourth degree if the actor interferes or tampers with any airport, landing field, landing strip, heliport, helistop of any other aviation facility; however if the interference or tampering with the airport, landing field, landing strip, heliport, helistop or other aviation facility recklessly causes bodily injury or damage to property, the actor is guilty of a crime of the third degree, or if it recklessly causes a death, the actor is guilty of a crime of the second degree.
(6) Criminal mischief is a crime of the third degree if the actor tampers with a grave, crypt, mausoleum or other site where human remains are stored or interred, with the purpose to desecrate, destroy or steal such human remains or any part thereof.
(7) Criminal mischief is a crime of the third degree if the actor purposely or knowingly causes a substantial interruption or impairment of public communication, transportation, supply of water, oil, gas or power, or other public service. Criminal mischief is a crime of the second degree if the substantial interruption or impairment recklessly causes death.
(8) Criminal mischief is a crime of the fourth degree if the actor purposely or knowingly breaks, digs up, obstructs or otherwise tampers with any pipes or mains for conducting gas, oil or water, or any works erected for supplying buildings with gas, oil or water, or any appurtenances or appendages therewith connected, or injures, cuts, breaks down, destroys or otherwise tampers with any electric light wires, poles or appurtenances, or any telephone, telecommunications, cable television or telegraph wires, lines, cable or appurtenances.
c. A person convicted of an offense of criminal mischief that involves an act of graffiti may, in addition to any other penalty imposed by the court, be required to pay to the owner of the damaged property monetary restitution in the amount of the pecuniary damage caused by the act of graffiti and to perform community service, which shall include removing the graffiti from the property, if appropriate. If community service is ordered, it shall be for either not less than 20 days or not less than the number of days necessary to remove the graffiti from the property.
d. As used in this section:
(1) “Act of graffiti” means the drawing, painting or making of any mark or inscription on public or private real or personal property without the permission of the owner.
(2) “Spray paint” means any paint or pigmented substance that is in an aerosol or similar spray container.
e. A person convicted of an offense of criminal mischief that involves the damaging or destroying of a rental premises by a tenant in retaliation for institution of eviction proceedings, may, in addition to any other penalty imposed by the court, be required to pay to the owner of the property monetary restitution in the amount of the pecuniary damage caused by the damage or destruction.