In the state of New Jersey, vandalism is considered “criminal mischief,” and although that title doesn’t sound all that serious, the consequences still are. Committing vandalism can be defined as damaging someone else’s tangible property, either purposefully or recklessly. This includes any damage done with fire, explosives or any other potential hazards. This can also include something as simple as graffiti, or even keying another person’s car.
There are a few ways a person can be charged with vandalism. With multiple factors that will play into how severe the legal punishments are, it is important to understand the differences. These factors can include the cost to repair or replace the damage, what and where the vandalism took place and whether or not any harm was caused. Based on these factors, vandalism can be charged in three different ways.
- Disorderly Persons Offense: The least severe of the three charges, a disorderly persons offense will lead to a fine of up to $1,000. This is if the damage is below $500.
- Fourth Degree Offense: If the damage caused between $500 and $2,000 in repairs, this charge can lead to up to 18 months in jail and a fine of $10,000.
- Third Degree Offense: Any damage that leads to repaired costing more than $2,000 will lead to three to five years in jail and fines up to $15,000.
Along with the aforementioned factors leading to a sentence, there are other things that can play into the severity of vandalism charges. Specific factors like causing the loss or disruption of research at a research facility, the damage taking place at an airport or any aviation property, any tampering with conveyances like mains, pipes, wires, poles, towers or building associated with water, gas, electricity and any other telecommunications will lead to compounding repercussions. Additionally, any significant interruptions of public communications or transportations, including the transportation of water, gas, oil or electricity, as well as tampering with any grave or similar sites where human remains are stored will also lead to more severe punishment. Finally, if any actions taken eventually lead to the harm or death of someone else, charges can become significantly more serious.
If being charged with vandalism, there are valid arguments to lessen or get out of a sentence. These arguments include proper ownership of the property damaged, challenging the value of whatever may be damaged, establishing an alibi, mistaken identity, unreliable witness testimony or proving the damage was accidental. An example of accidental damage would be something like an uncontrollable car crash that leads to property damage.
Vandalism is not a charge that should be taken lightly. Having a conviction on your record can lead to future problems such as hindering employment or higher education opportunities. It is important to have someone on your side who can represent you the best way possible. We at Catanzaro Law understand this. Our attorneys have the proper experience and knowledge to best defend your case, and we’ll do everything in our power to fight for your freedoms. If you, or someone you know, has been charged with vandalism, contact us today for a free consultation, and let our experts represent you in the court of law.