What may start out as a seemingly harmless dare between one juvenile and another can lead to criminal mischief that is punishable by fines, community service and even jail time.
It is important for all minors and their parents or guardians to be up to date with the laws and punishments the State of New Jersey has in place regarding this subject. We understand that, even with a full education on the subject, juveniles occasionally still slip up and make mistakes. Here at Villani & DeLuca in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, our lawyers work tirelessly to stay on top of all defense options for minors charged with criminal mischief. We can provide guidance to anyone who finds themselves or a loved one faced with a criminal mischief charge.
Types of Juvenile Criminal Mischief
Juvenile criminal mischief comes in many forms. Crimes such as toilet papering or egging someone’s property may seem mild in nature, but they can result in serious punishment if there is corresponding property damage.
One of the most common forms of criminal mischief conducted by juveniles is vandalism. This includes defacing private or public property. This type of mischief can range from spraying graffiti on a wall in Red Bank to breaking the windows of a house in Belmar. Causing damage to another person’s car is also an act of criminal mischief.
Another all-to0-frequent form of juvenile criminal mischief is trespassing on private property. What a teenager may feel is a harmless act of checking out a local hot spot after hours, is actually a form of mischief that can result in an arrest.
Charges for Juvenile Criminal Mischief
There are varying degrees of criminal mischief and multiple levels of punishment. Serious offenders of this type of crime can face 3 to 5 years of jail time if convicted. If the offense results in less than $500 of property damage, the suspected person can be charged with a disorderly persons offense. This charge can come with a six month jail sentence.
It is considered a fourth degree crime if the criminal damage is in excess of $500, but less than $2,000. Damage to any oil, gas or water pipes can also result in a fourth degree charge. If the person caused more than $2,000, the charge is increased to a third degree crime. It is also possible for a person to be charged with a second degree crime, although it is rare. For a second degree charge to come into play, the suspect must be charged with the impairment of a public service that results in a death.
The punishment dramatically increases if a person is charged with a second or subsequent criminal mischief offense. According to New Jersey law, punishment for a person convicted of a second offense includes a minimum prison sentence of five years without parole.
Understanding the Juvenile Legal System
Juveniles are treated similar to adults when it comes to mischief crimes. This means that the punishment is tied directly to the amount of damage committed during the act. However, it is important for minors and their parents to understand that the intention of the criminal justice system is to rehabilitate the juvenile in an effort to ensure that there is no future occurrence of the crime.
Even with this in mind, a conviction for any type of criminal mischief can carry serious baggage with it. A record in this area can have an effect on your reputation, status of a college application or relationship with a current employer. The criminal defense lawyers at Villani & DeLuca understand how serious these issues can be and can work with you to ensure that both your current and future ambitions are not derailed because of a juvenile mistake. We will give you honest answers to the questions you may have and formulate the best strategy for you or your loved one.
A Juvenile’s Right to Defense
Having legal counsel is your constitutional right as a juvenile in New Jersey. If you do not retain counsel, you put yourself at risk of inadvertently saying or doing something that could implicate yourself in a crime. There are multiple actions that the experienced lawyers at Villani & DeLuca can take to actively protect your interests. They will work to help you reduce the charges or even avoid formal criminal charges being filed altogether.