Maybe you didn’t realize you could wind up with a criminal mischief charge. After all, you consider what you did art. However, the police think otherwise. Apparently, your spray can paintings are not appreciated. You’re told that what you did constitutes graffiti, which means you could be found guilty of criminal mischief.
Graffiti is just one example of something considered an act of criminal mischief. In case you’re still not sure why your drawings fall into this category, we’ll provide you with the legal definition. According to NJSA 2C:17-3(c), it ” means the drawing, painting or making of any mark or inscription on public or private real or personal property without the permission of the owner.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if your work enhanced the premises.
Graffiti is Just One Example of Criminal Mischief
We started off our discussion on criminal mischief because it is specifically referenced in the statute. However, other acts can result in criminal mischief charges. Here are some examples:
- Causing damage to a rental property in retaliation for eviction
- Tampering with, or removing street signs or traffic signals
- Interfering with communications or utility providers and causing an interruption in service
You could also be charged with criminal mischief if you tampered with a grave, crypt, or mausoleum. However, it must be proven that you did so to desecrate, destroy or steal human remains.
If you’ve been charged with criminal mischief, you may already realize that the term can be somewhat broad. But, what about the penalties?
Penalties for Criminal Mischief Charges
Under New Jersey law, the penalties for criminal mischief are quite varied. At the very least, you could be deemed guilty of a disorderly persons offense. This is applicable if the judge determines that the damages you caused are less than $500. You could be sentenced to jail for six months and also incur other penalties, such as fines and court costs.
Those convicted of graffiti may also be court-ordered to clean up their work. Also, they can expect to serve community service for at least twenty days.
Some criminal mischief convictions are actually considered third or fourth-degree crimes. An experienced criminal law attorney can advise you if your charges fit into this classification. There is a potential prison sentence with either of these convictions.