Do not let your anger get the better of you. If you are caught vandalizing, destroying, or damaging property, you can be convicted of a crime in New Jersey. You could face serious, life-altering consequences if convicted, so be sure to understand the charges you are facing and consult with an experienced NJ criminal defense attorney.
What is Vandalism Charges?
Vandalism is generally considered the deliberate destruction or damage of the property of another. In NJ, vandalism is labeled criminal mischief. Criminal mischief takes on several forms. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3, if you purposefully or knowingly damage tangible property of another or damage it recklessly or negligently while using fire, explosives, or other dangerous means, you can be convicted of criminal mischief. Similarly, you also can be convicted of criminal mischief if you are caught purposefully or knowingly tampering with the tangible property of another in order to endanger a person or their property.
Penalties and Fines
Criminal mischief is a serious crime in New Jerseyand you stand to lose a great deal if convicted. The seriousness of your charge will directly depend on the monetary amount of damage you do. If the damage you cause is valued at less than $500, you could be convicted of a disorderly persons offense. If the damage you cause is valued between $500 and $2,000, you could be convicted of a fourth degree crime.
Likewise, if your act of vandalism involves digging up or tampering with gas lines, cable lines, or telecommunication lines, then you can be convicted of a fourth degree crime (regardless of what the value of the damage was). If the damage you cause is valued at more than $2,000, you could be convicted of a third degree crime. Moreover, if the damage you cause is done to a cemetery, grave site, mausoleum, or research property at a research facility, then you can be convicted of a third degree crime (regardless of what the value of the damage was).
Lastly, if the damage or vandalism causes an interruption or impairment of public transportation or utilities, then you can be convicted of a third degree crime (regardless of what the value of the damage was).
What are Graffiti Charges?
If you are caught spraying graffiti in New Jersey, you can face criminal charges that will result in a criminal record. A criminal record can make it exceptionally difficult to get a job in what is already a slumping economy and can make getting into college quite difficult. Aside from that, if convicted you can incur a large fine, community service, and even jail time.
Graffiti is Considered “Criminal Mischief.” New Jersey does not have a separate statute designed to criminalize spraying graffiti. Instead, like any other form of vandalism, it falls within New Jersey’s criminal mischief statute.
Under N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3, a person can be convicted of criminal mischief in New Jersey if he or she:
- “(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. 2C:17-2; or (2) Purposely, knowingly or recklessly tampers with tangible property of another so as to endanger person or property.”
Due to the nature of the statute, graffiti is not limited to spray painting a wall. It can include any form of artistic defacement of a building, car, structure, wall, etc. Consequently, New Jersey considers drawing, painting, or the making of any mark or inscription on real or personal property (whether public or private) without the permission of the owner to be “graffiti.” Contrary to popular belief, this can include etching one’s name on a wood bench and similar conduct.
Penalties and Fines
According to N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3(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.”
Aside from paying the owner for the damage you caused, restoring the property or premises to the way it aesthetically looked before you defaced it, and doing community service, you can go to jail and be forced to pay a fine. Depending on the amount of damage you caused and the severity of your conduct, graffiti charges are either a third or fourth degree crime. If you are convicted of a fourth degree crime, you face up to 18 months in jail and a fine of $10,000. If convicted of a third degree crime, 3-5 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Consequences for Juveniles
Luckily, for graffiti charges, a minor (in most cases) will not have to go into adult criminal court. Instead, minors go into juvenile court and if convicted of the crime will not be put in adult prison. However, they can still be put in a juvenile detention center (“juvie hall”), forced to do community service, pay total restitution for the damage they caused, and will have a juvenile record (which has the same negative effect on getting a job or getting into college as a full-blown criminal record).
Moreover, if you are a minor and get convicted of graffiti charges in NJ, you will lose your driver’s license. Remember, whether you are a minor or an adult, you have a lot to lose if convicted of graffiti charges in New Jersey. Make sure you hire an experienced NJ criminal defense attorney to help you avoid the fall out graffiti charges.
Who Should I Contact?
If you are facing graffiti charges in NJ, contact Adam H. Rosenblum of Rosenblum Law today. Mr. Rosenblum is a skilled criminal defense attorney who has helped people in similar situations. He will defend your constitutional rights, fight to keep you out of jail, and do what he can to have your graffiti charges dismissed. E-mail or call him today at 888-815-3649.