Is Criminal Mischief a Felony in NJ?


Criminal Mischief deals with crimes against property belonging to someone else in New Jersey. Generally, criminal mischief is the destruction or damage to property in which a pecuniary loss is realized. This can be a relatively minor offense or it can be considered a major crime. Believe it or not, in extreme instances, the crime of criminal mischief can land you in state prison for as much as ten years.

Not all criminal mischief charges are as serious as others, but all of these offenses do permit a judge to sentence you to jail, to pay fines and restitution, be placed on probation, and be saddled with a criminal record. Fortunately, we at William Proetta Criminal Law know the proof needed to convict you, options that may be leveraged to get the charges dismissed, and defenses that may be available to successfully win your case. Call (908) 838-0150 to speak with an experienced criminal lawyer who defends clients charged with criminal mischief in Union County, NJ, such as Clark, Union Township, Cranford, Mountainside, Fanwood, Summit, and Berkeley Heights. Free consultations are provided by our team day and night to best serve your needs.

What is Criminal Mischief in New Jersey?

It is an offense of criminal mischief to damage the tangible property belonging to another. The state must prove to a jury that you 1) purposely, knowingly, or recklessly damaged property 2) of another and 3) that the item had a monetary value which has been lost as a result of your conduct.

For example, perhaps you and your girlfriend are in a shared apartment when you begin arguing about another guy texting her. You want to see her text messages on her phone. When she refuses, you snatch the phone, throw it against the wall, and it shatters into a hundred tiny pieces. You continue arguing and it only gets worse, ultimately causing you to push the television off the stand. She calls the police and they charge you with criminal mischief for damaging the property in question. In the case of the cell phone, it belonged to your girlfriend, not you. As such, if the state can prove that you broke it and caused financial damage, you may be found guilty of violating 2C:17-3. As for the tv, if it were owned by you, then there may be an argument to be made that it was your property to do with what you wish. Lastly, if there is damage to the property that you rent, you can be charged with criminal mischief for that damage as well.

What Degree is Criminal Mischief in Clark NJ?

In a criminal mischief case, the degree of the charge depends on the value of the item broken, damaged, or destroyed. Criminal mischief can be a felony offense which is known as an “indictable crime” in New Jersey. Indictable crimes must be taken seriously despite how trivial the charging conduct might seem. Consider the following repercussions if convicted. When the property is worth more than $500 but less than $2000, you can go to jail for up to 18 months, as it is a fourth degree felony. If the property value is greater than $2000, you will be charged with a third degree crime and may be sentenced to a range of 3 to 5 years in prison upon conviction. For damaging property valued at less than $500, a disorderly persons complaint will be filed and county jail of up to 6 months is permitted. The courts with jurisdiction and the discretionary jail terms are different in each case.

For disorderly persons offenses, the case is heard in the municipal court that handles criminal charges for the town where the case arose. For felony crimes, the case heads to superior court in the county that governs indictable criminal charges for all of the towns within its boundaries. In either scenario, the court does not have to send you to jail or prison for a disorderly persons offense or a third or fourth degree indictable crime. Unfortunately, in more serious second degree criminal cases, state prison is supposed to be ordered.

Second degree criminal mischief cases allege more offensive and serious conduct involving grave impacts upon others. Under the statute, if you damage a traffic signal, airport device or landing strip, and you recklessly cause the death of another, you can be charged with this offense. Similarly, you will be charged with a second degree crime for interfering with communication or public services such as gas or water that results in death. For a second degree crime, you face prison for 5 to 10 years even with no prior record.

Will I go to Jail for Causing Property Damage Near Elizabeth NJ?

Not everyone convicted of, or charged with, criminal mischief will go to jail. In fact, some people charged with the offense may obtain a dismissal through Pretrial Intervention, a diversionary program. You may also be able to obtain a dismissal with a viable defense, by paying for the damaged item, or by simply proving that the property belonged to you. In other cases, the charges can be lowered to reduce the possible punishments, whether to a felony of a lesser degree or from an indictable to a disorderly persons charge not resulting in a felony conviction or its impacts. Probation may also be an option. You should know, however, that the court can force you to pay for the damage caused in addition to the other punishments imposed.

Need a Lawyer Near Cranford NJ for Help With My Criminal Mischief Case

There are multiple ways that a criminal mischief case can be handled to get you the top outcome. Treat yourself right and protect your best interests by hiring a knowledgeable defense attorney who knows these charges inside and out, has the time and commitment to devote to your case, and can assist you every step of the way. Call (908) 838-0150 for further explanation about your criminal mischief charges and find out how our criminal defense firm serving all of Union County can help you.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.