Damaging private or public property in New Jersey can lead to vandalism charges. This criminal offense is one that should not be taken lightly. The consequences associated with vandalism can have a lasting impact on your life. If you have been charged with vandalism in New Jersey, you may wonder whether you can face jail time. As you will see throughout this article, jail and prison time may be possible if convicted of this criminal offense. Atlantic City criminal defense attorney John J. Zarych explains.
What is Vandalism in New Jersey?
Vandalism in New Jersey is known as criminal mischief. This crime can lead to devastating consequences if convicted. Whether you are charged as a juvenile or an adult, criminal mischief charges can lead to very serious penalties. In New Jersey, vandalism or criminal mischief is defined as damaging someone else’s property purposely or negligently with fire, explosives, or other means. Typically, the most recognizable form of vandalism or criminal mischief is graffiti.
Many people tend to believe criminal mischief charges are not as severe as other criminal offenses in New Jersey. On its face, criminal mischief charges may not lead to harsh penalties. However, the penalties associated with vandalism in New Jersey can last even years after a criminal conviction. The severity and extent of your penalties will depend on the value of the damage done. If you have been charged with vandalism or criminal mischief in New Jersey, you need to act quickly. It is always in your best interest to hire an experienced New Jersey vandalism defense attorney who can guide you through this process.
What Are the Penalties for Vandalism in NJ?
As we mentioned, the criminal penalties you can face will depend on the damage done to private or public property. New Jersey divides crimes into disorderly persons offenses and indictable crimes. Disorderly persons offenses are comparable to misdemeanors, while indictable crimes can be equal to felonies in other jurisdictions. Typically, disorderly persons offenses carry lesser criminal penalties, while indictable crimes can lead to the most devastating, life-changing penalties.
A disorderly persons offense typically carries up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. Indictable crimes are divided into degrees. The lower the degree, the higher the criminal penalties associated with the criminal offense. For instance, a fourth-degree indictable crime conviction can lead up to 18 months in prison, while a conviction for a first-degree indictable crime can lead up to 20 years in prison. Every conviction based on an indictable offense can also lead to thousands of dollars in criminal fines.
In most cases, vandalism or criminal mischief can lead to disorderly persons offense charges. However, your charges can be upgraded to indictable crimes charges depending on the existence of aggravating factors.
Vandalism Penalties Based on Value of Damage
For example, you can face a disorderly persons offense charge if the property loss had a value of $500 or less. However, you can face fourth-degree indictable offense charges for losses of more than $500 but less than $2,000. If you are convicted of this offense, you can face up to 18 months in prison a criminal fine of up to $10,000. However, your penalties can be harsher if the property loss due to vandalism totals $2,000 or more. If convicted, you can face up to 5 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
Vandalism Penalties Based on the Property Damaged
Criminal charges based on vandalism or criminal mischief is not limited to property value. Your charges can also be based on the property that was damaged. For instance, for alleged damage to a research facility, you can face fourth-degree offense charges. The same can happen if the damage was on an airport, landing field, or landing strip.
Fourth-degree offense charges can also happen for tampering with different properties such as tubes, pipes, or wires destined to facilitate electricity, telecommunications, or water flow in public buildings or private properties such as homes.
Can I Defend Against Vandalism or Criminal Mischief Charges in New Jersey?
Being charged with vandalism or criminal mischief in New Jersey doesn’t make you automatically guilty. It is essential to understand that as a defendant; you have the right to fight your charges regardless of their severity. If you were charged with vandalism, you can fight your charges. Some of the strategies that can be used against your vandalism charges in NJ include the following:
The alibi defense strategy can be a powerful tool against your criminal charges. It is possible that you were singled out as the alleged perpetrator of vandalism. However, you can provide evidence showing you were at another place when the alleged vandalism took place. Your Atlantic City vandalism defense attorney can help you with this matter.
Mistaken identity is an available defense in vandalism cases. Many private and public properties have security cameras operating 24/7. However, in many instances, these cameras have low-quality resolutions, which can make it significantly challenging to identify the alleged offender. If the visual evidence against you is a low-resolution image that can’t identify you, you cannot be charged.
Unreliable Witness Testimony
Many times, vandalism cases rely on the testimony of alleged witnesses to the offense. However, in our many years of experience handling criminal cases, we have seen many witnesses offering unreliable, inaccurate testimonies that cannot allow the prosecution to establish that you committed the crime you are accused of committing. If there are any discrepancies or lack of credibility, we can find them and help defend you against unreliable witnesses.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney Handling Vandalism Cases
If you or a loved one was charged with vandalism or criminal mischief in New Jersey, we can help. Our experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorneys can help defend you against your charges. We can help you find any flaws in the prosecution’s case and use it to help you get the most favorable result in your specific case. Thanks to our many years of experience with criminal law, we have developed the skills necessary to provide you with the quality legal defense you deserve. To learn more about the services our Stone Harbor criminal defense lawyers offer in a free, confidential consultation, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956.