Ridgefield Park Criminal Mischief Defense Attorneys
Criminal Defense Lawyers with Offices in Bergen County, New Jersey
Do you need a lawyer for a criminal mischief charge in Bergen County? We can help. Criminal mischief is a crime against property in New Jersey, which violates section N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3 of the Criminal Code. These charges are common in cases involving property damage, whether by committing an act of vandalism, spraying graffiti, or otherwise causing damage to property of some kind. Depending on how much resulting damage there is, criminal mischief can be a categorized as a disorderly persons offense or an indictable felony crime of the third or fourth degree. When these charges are indictable in nature, the penalties become more substantial. Additionally, there are further consequences such as community service that are required when the offense involves graffiti.
If you or someone you love has been accused of a crime such as criminal mischief, harassment, simple assault, or shoplifting in Hackensack, Ridgefield Park, Englewood Cliffs, or another Bergen County municipality, obtaining a skilled legal representative can be the most important decision that you make when addressing these allegations. At The Tormey Law Firm, we pride ourselves on bolstering confidence in our clients by providing the best possible legal counsel. With offices conveniently located in Hackensack, New Jersey, within walking distance of the Hackensack Municipal Court and Bergen County Superior Court, our attorneys have day-to-day exposure to the inner workings of the New Jersey Criminal Justice System. Not only do we use our extensive experience to facilitate the most favorable outcome, but we also develop relationships with our clients founded upon trust, mutual respect, and compassion. Click here to read some of our client reviews. For a free consultation with a member of our defense team, contact the Bergen County, New Jersey offices of The Tormey Law Firm at (201)-330-4979.
Criminal Mischief Law in New Jersey: N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3
The offense defined as “criminal mischief” is outlined in section N.J.S.A 2C:17-3 of the New Jersey Criminal Code, which provides in pertinent part:
§ 2C:17-3. Criminal Mischief
a. Offense defined. A person is guilty of criminal mischief if he:
(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.A. 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 $ 2000.00. 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 or 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.
What are the Penalties for Criminal Mischief in NJ?
Criminal mischief in New Jersey can be graded as a third or fourth degree felony or a disorderly persons offense, with the degree of these charges contingent upon the nature of the offense and the amount of property damage that resulted. The specific grading for criminal mischief offenses is as follows:
- Criminal Mischief as a Third Degree Crime: Resulting in damage valued at $2,000.00 or more
- Punishable by a term of incarceration ranging from three (3) to five (5) years in New Jersey State Prison, as well as a maximum fine of $15,000.00
- Criminal Mischief as a Fourth Degree Crime: Resulting in damage valued between $500.00 and $2,000.00
- Punishable by a sentence to serve up to eighteen (18) months in New Jersey State Prison, as well as a maximum fine of $10,000.00
- Criminal Mischief as a Disorderly Persons Offense: Resulting in damage amounting to $500.00 or less
- Punishable by a sentence to serve up to six (6) months in the county jail, as well as a maximum fine of $1,000.00
Charged with Criminal Mischief in NJ, Will I go to Jail?
While criminal mischief charges are serious, individuals with no prior record are entitled to a presumption of non-incarceration. Essentially, this means that jail or prison is not necessarily required if it is a first offense. In cases in Municipal Court, these charges may be resolved through a diversionary program such as conditional dismissal. Similarly, the Superior Court Pre-Trial Intervention Program may provide an alternative to conviction and the associated punishments. Our lawyers can help you determine your eligibility for a program and assist you with securing admission if you are eligible. There may also be valid defenses that can be used to beat your criminal mischief charges entirely, so it is best to have your unique case examined by a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer.
Juveniles Charged with Criminal Mischief in Bergen County NJ
When a juvenile is charged with criminal mischief, their case is handled in a different court. Typically, defendants charged with disorderly persons offenses will attend the local municipal court in the town where the charges were filed. On the other hand, those charged with felony crimes will go to Bergen County Superior Court, where the Criminal Division is responsible for prosecuting. Then there are juvenile cases of criminal mischief, which are actually handled in the Family Court in Bergen County. Those under the age of 18 have many options when it comes to handling their case, whether through dismissal by deferred disposition, community service, writing a book report, or another option. Our attorneys have experience defending minors accused of damaging property, and we can help you ensure that this case doesn’t derail your future.
Criminal Mischief can be Domestic Violence in New Jersey
Some criminal mischief charges are issued in the general criminal context, resulting from a broad range of conduct such as keying a car, spray painting a local overpass, or throwing eggs on mischief night, to name a few common examples. A lesser known fact is that criminal mischief can also constitute an act of domestic violence. Domestic disputes happen on a regular basis in New Jersey, some of which result in damaged property. For example, if police are called to the scene of an alleged domestic incident, they may find a broken window, damaged furniture, or items like lamps that have been shattered or cracked during an altercation. If one of the people involved in suspected of domestic violence, they may be charged with criminal mischief in addition to any other offenses.
Another frequently seen scenario giving rise to arrests for criminal mischief in domestic violence cases is one person breaking the other party’s phone. Perhaps after a dating relationship ends unfavorably, the person scorned throws the other’s phone across the room when enraged. If the alleged victim so chooses, they may choose to report it to law enforcement and even to file a temporary restraining order, in which case the accused may be served with a restraining order and charged with criminal mischief. The implications of a criminal mischief case involving domestic abuse is two-fold, as you then expand your exposure to punishments in the criminal system on top of the consequences of a permanent restraining order against you. Considering all of this, it is vital to have a zealous defense lawyer with experience handling all aspects of your case, from the appearances in municipal or superior court for the criminal mischief charge, to the restraining order trial in family court.
Call The Tormey Law Firm in Hackensack to Discuss Your Criminal Mischief Case
The aggressive criminal defense team at The Tormey Law Firm will confront your criminal mischief charges head-on, ensuring that every component of the prosecution’s case has been evaluated and argued to the fullest extent of the law. Travis J. Tormey leads by example, with the type of dedication that only a truly passionate defender can provide. To discuss your criminal mischief case in Bergen County with him or one of the other highly knowledgeable attorneys on his staff, contact the Hackensack offices of Tormey Law today at (201)-330-4979.