Bergen County NJ Criminal Mischief Lawyer

      New Jersey Criminal Mischief laws are governed by N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3.  This statute sets out the various penalties, as described below, for a criminal mischief conviction.  This is one of the most common offenses in NJ, as it covers most Destruction of Property offenses, such as Spray Painting (Graffiti), Vandalism, Damage caused by Explosives (fireworks etc.), Tampering with Public Property, etc.  


What are the Penalties?

The penalties for Criminal Mischief in NJ generally depend upon how much property was damaged.  If the incident involved public property, injury, or death, the grade of the offense may differ.   For the full statute see here.

If it is alleged that a criminal mischief defendent damaged or destroyed property valued under $500, it is a disorderly persons offense subject to:

  • Up to six months in Jail
  • $1,000 Fine
  • Criminal Record

If it is alleged that a criminal mischief defendent damaged or destroyed property valued between $500 and $2000, it is a fourth degree crime subject to:

  • 18 Months Prison
  • $10,000 Fine
  • Criminal Record

If it is alleged that a criminal mischief defendent damaged or destroyed property valued over $2000, it is a third degree crime subject to:

  • 3-5 Years in Prison
  • $15,000 Fine
  • Criminal Record

*In addition to the above penalties the offender may be required to pay restitution to the injured party.  

**If the offense relates to graffiti, you may also be required to perform community service.


Can I fight my Criminal Mischief Charge?

To properly defend your Bergen County NJ Criminal Mishchief case you must be intimately familiar with all aspects a such a case may take on; from disproving elements of the States case, to having evidence suppressed.   With over 40 years experience as a Judge, Prosecutor, and Criminal Defense Attorney, the Attorneys of Avery & Avery know how to keep you out of trouble.  You stand the best chance of avoiding a criminal conviction when represented by a Bergen County NJ Criminal Mischief Lawyer, call today.


How does the NJ Criminal Mischief Law work? 

To understand how New Jersey's Criminal Mischief law works, we first must understand the elements of the offense.  There are two (2) elements to this offense:

1.     The accused must have destroyed or tampered with property of another;

2.     The accused must have done so, purposefully, knowingly, or recklessly.

The State must prove both these elements beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict you for criminal mischief.  If they cannot do so for any element of a case, the charge must be dismissed.

If you or a family member or friend has been charged or indicted for criminal mischief, it is important to be represented by the best. A Bergen County NJ Criminal Mischief Lawyer, with a success rate second to none, can help you obtain an acquittal or reduction in charges.  Call now for a free consultation.


Frequently Asked Questions

What sort of acts generally constitute Criminal Mischief in New Jersey?

Criminal Mischief is a very broad ranging crime and can arise out of most destruction of property offenses, such as spray painting (graffiti), vandalism, breaking windows, damage caused by explosives (fireworks etc.), tampering with public property such as water pipes.  The most common predicate for New Jersey Criminal Mischief is destruction of property.  It is very easy to cause $500 or more in damage to something and so most clients are charged at least as a fourth degree.  Interestingly, even people breaking their own property in their own home are sometimes charged.  These charges are heard in the Bergen, Hudson, etc, county Superior Courts, and are much more dangerous to your future.

I was charged with criminal mischief in Paramus, what will happen next?

If the charge is for a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th degree criminal mischief, the case will be refered to the Bergen County prosecutor and will be adjudicated at the Bergen County Court House in Hackensack.

If your case is sent to Hackensack, it is all the more important to hire an attorney.  There would be criminal charges against you that may follow you for the rest of your life, or end you up in jail.  Luckily the Paramus NJ Criminal Mischief Lawyers of Avery & Avery have great success is having these charges ultimately downgraded and sent back to your local Municipal Court and afterwards working with them to further reduce or eliminate the case.

I only damaged the property by accident, is that a defense?

Accidental destruction or damage of property may be a defense in some circumstances.  The statute however, still covers accidental damage in certain instances.  You may still be convicted if you recklessly, or in some instances negligently damaged property.  These cases are very fact sensitive and require careful review, for a free consultation, please call 201-943-2445 to schedule an appointment with a Bergen County New Jersey Criminal Mischief Lawyer.

The police are about to arrest me, what do I do?

In most situations when being arrested we advise our clients to not say a thing.  You do not have to and should not be coerced or threatened into talking with the police.  If you are being arrested do not speak to the police until you have consulted with an attorney.  Even one wrong statement to the police can harm you and result in a conviction later on.  

Can I just pay the property owner (victim) back, and avoid prosecution?

It is often possible, as part of a plea agreement, in exchange for a reduction or dismissal of charges, it is possible to negotiate a payment of compensation for damage.  This is not always an option, in many cases the prosecutor may wish to charge criminally and require compensation concurrently. 

What is the difference between 3rd, 4th, and Disorderly Persons Criminal Mischief in NJ?

The difference is in the gradation of the offense.  The gradation of a NJ Criminal Mischief offense, as outlined above, generally depend on the amount of property damage.  For a 3rd degree criminal mischief, the possible jail time is a presumptive 3-5 years in prison.  This is a very dangerous crime to be charged with, and is very common given the low threshhold of only damaging $2,000 worth of property.  For a 4th degree criminal mischief, the possible jail time is 18 months in prison.  The above are heard in the Bergen County Superior Court in Hackensack.  A Disorderly Persons grade of criminal mischief is heard in the town where the charge originated, where you will face a maximum possible 6 months of jail.

I am under 18 years old, how does the NJ Criminal Mischief law affect me?

New Jersey's Juvenile justice system differs significantly from the adult system.  Minors charged with Criminal Mischief will most often be instead adjudicated for juvenile delinquency.  Juvenile Delinquency can carry the same penalties as the predicate offense, but is generally far more lenient.  For more information about Juvenile Delinquency charges, please see here.

If they have caught me and there are no defenses, what can I do?

In some situations the Bergen County police have caught the defendant dead to rights and there are no defenses.  In situations like these we have often been successful in downgrading the offense to a far lesser penalty and no jail time.  Another approach is to enter our client into a diversionary program such as Pre Trial Intervention (PTI)  or Conditional Discharge (CD).  These programs provide the benefit of no jail time and no criminal record.  We have been successful with combinations of the two as well when dealing with high level offenders.

I have been convicted for Criminal Mischief before, but in another state, how does this affect the case?

If the other State's Criminal Mischief law is substantially similar to NJ's, a NJ court will likely count it as a prior and be more inclined to impose greater than the minimum penalties.  This could mean the difference between a possible 3 year sentence and a 5 year sentence.  If you have been convicted before for Criminal Mischief, no matter the State, it is imperative you contact an Experienced NJ Criminal Defense Lawyer.

Where do you practice?

Our NJ Criminal Mischief Defense Attorneys regularly defend clients in Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, Morris, Union, Sussex, and Essex counties.  We also regularly are able to have the charges downgraded and heard in the municipal courts of the State.



© Avery & Avery, Esqs., 2012-2017 All rights reserved. Robert W. Avery, Esq., Avery & Avery, Esqs., www.averylaw-nj.com, drugcrimedefenselawyer-nj.com, trafficticketlawyer-nj.com, and criminaldefenselawyer-nj.com, own all intellectual property rights, including all copyrights, in and related to the content and top design of this site and the organization of the information contained in this site. Disclaimer: This website is made available by Robert W. Avery, Esq., and Avery & Avery, Esqs., to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice.  By using this website, you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the website publisher.  Communication by you (via email, facsimile, or telephone) does not create an attorney client relationship, which can only be accomplished by a written retainer agreement between lawyer and client.  Our top priority is to provide all of our clients and those who search for us, whether for personal injury matters, general trial work, criminal arrests, drug and marijuana arrests, municipal court dui dwi drunk driving arrests and breathalyzer/alcotest refusal representation, or for estate planning, estate administration, powers or attorney, living wills, advance directives, or for their last will and testament, with the best representation and best defense available anywhere. Our primary practice is in the Bergen County, Hudson County, Passaic County, Morris County, Essex County, Sussex County and the North New Jersey region.