Vandalism is an offense that occurs when a person willfully destroys or defaces someone else’s property without permission. In New Jersey it is labeled “criminal mischief” and a covered by N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3 of the criminal code. It is important to note that a person can be charged with vandalism if “caught in the act” or if in possession of the means to “commit the act”. Examples of vandalism include, but are not limited to the following behaviors:
– Spray painting another’s property with the purpose of defacing it;
– Keying or scratching the paint off of someone’s car;
– Kicking and damaging someone’s property with your hands or feet;
– “Egging” someone’s car or window;
– Breaking someone’s windows;
– Slashing someone’s tires;
– Defacing public property with graffiti and other forms of “”art”.
Penalties for violations of N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3 depend on the “cost” of the damage done to the property in question.
– Less than $500 damage is a disorderly person’s offense punishable by up to six months in the county jail and a maximum fine of $1000.
– $500 to $2,000 damage is a fourth degree crime punishable by a prison term up to 18 months and a maximum fine of $10,000.
– More than $2,000 damage is a third degree crime punishable by a prison term of three to five years and a maximum fine of $15,000.
Regardless of the value of damage done, tampering with gas, cable or telecommunication limes is a fourth degree crime. Regardless of the value of damage if it is in a cemetery grave site, mausoleum, or property at a research facility it is a third degree crime. Similarly, it is a third degree crime to interrupt or impair public transportation or public utilities regardless of the value of the damage done.
In New Jersey spray painting or “graffiti” is a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3(c) – which states in relevant part
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.
More often than not, this statute is violated by juveniles and is prosecuted in juvenile court with penalties that include fines, community service, and mandatory clean up. A child with a conviction in juvenile court still has a criminal record that can be detrimental to his future as an adult.
If you or you juvenile have been charged with the offense of criminal mischief, contact Attorney Gwendolyn O. Austin at (973) 735-2706 or on line for a free, confidential consultation. I offer affordable rates and accept major credit cards for your convenience.