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Union County NJ Criminal Defense Lawyers

Over 100 Year of Combined Experience

Former County & Municipal Prosecutors



Criminal Mischief – N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3

Westfield NJ Criminal Mischief Attorney

Criminal mischief is a common criminal offense encountered at both the Superior Court in Elizabeth and in the municipal courts in Union County. While the charge often crops up in the text of vandalism, it applies to a much broader range of incidents involving damage or destruction of property. When the resulting loss is less than $500, criminal mischief is a disorderly persons offense which is heard locally in Summit, Westfield, Scotch Plains, Rahway, Cranford or another municipality. A conviction for causing more than $500 in damage as the result of criminal mischief is an indictable crime (a.k.a. a felony) that must to sent to the Criminal Division of the Union County Superior Court for disposition. Failure to successfully defend either grade of criminal mischief charge carries serious consequences and penalties so it is pivotal that you consult a knowledge criminal attorney if you have been charged with this offense.

At Marshall Bonus Proetta & Oliver, our attorneys make up one of the largest defense teams in the entire state. Several of the lawyers are former prosecutors at either the county or municipal level. We have over 100 years in practice between us, including a long record of defending criminal mischief charges. If you were arrested for this violation and would like to speak to an attorney on our staff in a free initial consultation, contact our Union NJ Office now at 908-272-1700.

Charged With Criminal Mischief in Union County

Whether you were charged with criminal mischief as the result of allegations of domestic violence, burglary or some other scenario, the law that applies to your case is N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3. In accordance with N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3, an individual is guilty if he engages in two varieties of conduct. The prohibited conduct includes:

  1. Intentionally causing damage to property of another or doing so recklessly or negligently by means of fire, explosives or other dangerous means; or
  2. Endangering a person or their property as a result of intentionally tampering with property.

You will note that New Jersey Criminal Mischief Law applies not only where damage is intentionally caused but also when an individual negligently an inherently dangerous instrumentality like fire or explosives. The chart below breaks down the grading for an offense for criminal mischief.

How a Criminal Mischief Offense Is Graded in Terms of Severity

Second Degree Crime It is a second degree crime to cause substantial interruption or impairment of communication, transportation, supply of water, gas or power or other public service that recklessly causes death of another person.
Third Degree Crime It is a third degree crime to purposely or knowingly cause: damage or loss of $2,000; or substantial interruption or impairment of public communication, transportation, supply of water, gas or power or other public service.
Fourth Degree Crime Criminal mischief is a third degree crime where the conduct causes in excess of $500 in damage but less than $2,000 in value.
Disorderly Persons Offense It is a disorderly persons offense if the pecuniary loss caused by the accused is less than $500.

Jail and Other Penalties for a Criminal Mischief Conviction

Second degree criminal mischief carries penalties that include 5-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Third degree criminal mischief is punishable by up to 5 years in jail and a fine of up to $15,000. Fourth degree criminal mischief triggers maximum penalties of up to 18 months in prison/jail and a $10,000 fine. A disorderly persons offense for criminal mischief can result in up to 6 months in the county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Restitution is also commonly ordered by the court at the time of sentencing.

Elizabeth NJ Criminal Mischief Lawyer

It naturally makes sense that the most criminal mischief cases are heard in Elizabeth since this is where the county courthouse is located where all second, third and fourth degree crimes are heard. No one needs to face this offense without a knowledgeable Union County defense attorney. The attorneys at Marshall Bonus Proetta & Oliver definitely fall within this category and are ready to put their decades of experience to work for you. If you were arrested and charged in Linden, Union Township, Clark, Garwood, Roselle or anywhere else in the area, a lawyer who is equipped to help you is available immediately at our firm. Call us anytime 24/7 at 908-272-1700.