Criminal Mischief & Vandalism

Children and teenagers often act before they think and something that may have seemed like a funny prank may quickly turn into criminal mischief charges. If your son or daughter was arrested for vandalizing property it is crucial that you get an experienced criminal defense attorney. The lawyers at the Law Offices of John F. Marshall have been defending juveniles in New Jersey for over 40 years. Our attorneys are typically successful at reducing the sentence or getting the complaint completely dismissed. We represent juveniles from all over NJ including Monmouth County, Ocean County, Essex County, Middlesex County, Mercer County, Union County, Bergen County, and Somerset County. A lawyer from our office will be able to conference with you and answer all your questions absolutely free.

NJ Criminal Mischief Law

Criminal mischief is an offense that encompasses a broad range of conduct. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3 it is a crime to damage or tamper with someone else’s property. A classic example of criminal mischief is throwing a rock through someone’s window. In most cases the prosecution must prove that the juvenile caused the damage on purpose. However, if a juvenile recklessly or negligently caused damage by the use of fire or explosives it is also a crime of criminal mischief. Neither actual harm nor damage need occur; it is the creating of the risk of harm which establishes the offense.

Juvenile Criminal Mischief Charges

The degree of the criminal mischief often depends on the type of the property damaged. Criminal mischief is a disorderly persons offense if the defendant caused $500 or less of damage. If the amount of damage can’t be ascertained it is treated as nominal damages and the offense is graded as a disorderly persons offense. In proving damages, cost of repairs or other methods of proving damages in civil cases can be used. It is a crime of the fourth degree if the damage is more $500, but less than $2,000 or if any gas, oil, water pipes, and telephone wires are destroyed or tampered with. The state need not prove purposeful or knowing behavior for this fourth degree offense. Criminal mischief is upgraded to a third degree crime if the person caused damage to property of $2,000 or more. It is also automatically becomes a third degree offense is a juvenile is arrested for tampering with or damaging graves. In rare instances criminal mischief can be escalated to a second degree crime when it involves the impairment of a public service and that interruption causes death. If the vandalism involved graffiti, the court will impose the appropriate penalties according the degree of the offense and the juvenile may be required to pay restitution to the owner of the damaged property. The court may also impose community service for at least 20 days or the number of days necessary to remove the graffiti from the property.

Criminal mischief is serious charge that can severely disrupt a young person’s life. However, criminal mischief is also very defensible and an experienced juvenile defense lawyer can usually get these types of charges dropped. The attorneys at the Law Offices of John F. Marshall frequently defend juveniles accused of criminal mischief and vandalism and are nearly always successful at getting the complaint dropped. We have offices all over New Jersey including Monmouth County, Ocean County, Essex County, Union County, Middlesex County and Morris County. Call us toll free at 1-877-450-8301 to speak to a knowledgeable juvenile defense lawyer who can advise you and your child of your rights and options free of charge.