Criminal mischief is a common crime in New Jersey. You should know what it means and how you could be charged with it.
What is criminal mischief?
Criminal mischief is a crime that involves property destruction or damage. There are varying levels of the offense, but if a person is convicted, they could face community service, fines and jail. It’s possible to have the lightest penalties, but you could still have a criminal record going forward.
What are examples of criminal mischief?
Although many view criminal mischief as a minor offense that only involves property destruction, it’s possible for a person to face a higher degree of the crime depending on the circumstances. For example, if someone destroys a road sign that helps direct traffic and a person dies as a result of the sign being unreadable, the charges could be elevated to second-degree criminal mischief. This is often considered a felony, which carries much more serious penalties such as a fine of up to $150,000, five to 10 years in state prison and restitution to the property owner.
Third-degree criminal mischief involves property damage worth $2,000 or greater. One of the most common ways to be charged with this level of crime is if a person goes into a cemetery and causes destruction to a grave. For example, kicking over a headstone could result in a third-degree criminal mischief charge, which is also classified as a felony. Penalties might include three to five years in state prison and a maximum fine of $15,000 as well as restitution ordered to the property owner.
One of the lesser criminal mischief charges is a disorderly persons offense. This charge may be applied if the individual damages property that has a value of $500 or less. Penalties often include a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail or community service.
Criminal mischief charges shouldn’t be shrugged off. It’s important to get help if you’ve been charged.