For a crime to be classified as vandalism or criminal mischief, the person must engage in the defacement or destruction of property, such as stealing or placing graffiti on traffic signs, smashing mailboxes or breaking windows on private property. Although these events may seem more mischievous than illegal, these are indeed criminal offenses that do carry with them heavy fines as well as bills to replace the vandalized or destroyed property.
For example, it is against the law in NJ to spray paint or otherwise embed your “tag” or nickname on public or private property, unless the property is your own. You cannot “tag” your name on the Point Pleasant or Seaside Heights boardwalk or carve your initials into the side of a building in Asbury Park. You may not “decorate” a city mailbox with graffiti or place any type of graffiti on a bridge, tunnel, street sign or other over or underpass. Additionally, you cannot “borrow” a street sign or a traffic sign as a prank, even if you intend to return the item. All of these actions are considered criminal behavior and will be treated as such.
Damage to privately owned property, such as breaking windows, or placing graffiti on the property, even if it appears to be abandoned, is also illegal and considered an act of vandalism. These acts are prosecuted by the courts in NJ and will result in serious consequences for the offenders. For the most part, offenders must meet the financial obligations handed down by courts. If a child is convicted of a juvenile vandalism charge, the parent/guardian is responsible for paying the fine assessed by the court. If you or a family member is facing a vandalism charge, please contact Villani & DeLuca today for guidance.
Criminal Mischief and Vandalism Penalties
In the state of New Jersey, if an individual knowingly destroys, defaces, removes or damages property property in any way, he or she can be charged with a disorderly persons offense or criminal act under the state’s criminal mischief statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3. The consequences of this offense, if found guilty, is a fine assessed by the courts and possible community service and jail time. The charge assessed and the amount of the fine imposed depends on the specific damage that was done as a result of the vandalism.
While other factors can be taken into account when determining the appropriate charge under the statute, criminal mischief is a crime of the third degree if the actor purposely or knowingly causes pecuniary loss of $2,000.00 or more, it is a crime of the fourth degree if the loss is in excess of $500.00 but less than $2000.00, and it is a disorderly persons offense if the actor causes pecuniary loss of $500.00 or less.
Obtain a Lawyer if Charged with Criminal Mischief in NJ
Serving the Ocean County and Monmouth County regions, Villani & DeLuca criminal defense attorneys can work with you to navigate a charge of criminal mischief and help obtain the best possible outcome. Contact us today to speak with an experienced attorney about vandalism and criminal mischief charges if they stemmed from Toms River, Brick, Lakewood, Seaside Heights, Wall or any other Ocean County or Monmouth County town.