When someone commits an act of property damage, they are often given a criminal mischief charge. It is surprising to defendants how costly this charge can be. In fact, depending on the degree of the crime, you could be fined up to $150,000 along with jail time. If you or a loved one has been charged with criminal mischief, the first step is hiring an attorney. There are plenty of New Jersey law firms, but Leon Matchin’s is one of the best. His level of experience and compassion for his clients is unmatched. He has helped many clients get through criminal mischief charges by using defenses that greatly reduce their charge. In court, the goal is always to get charges dropped, and if that’s not possible, to get them downgraded.
What is Criminal Mischief?
A criminal mischief charge is under section 2C:17-3 of New Jersey law. This law has many different subsections that spell out in detail what criminal mischief means. The key to a criminal mischief charge is that the act was committed purposely and knowingly. The act must have been reckless and negligent. A criminal mischief charge can vary in degrees, depending on the item/items damaged and the monetary value of the property damaged.
- Fourth Degree: Criminal mischief is considered a crime of the fourth degree when the property damage is between $500 and $2,000. Property damages to items at airports or gas, water, and oil pipes or phone wires are also considered a fourth-degree crime. The punishment for this offense includes fines up to $10,000 and jail time of up to 18 months.
- Third Degree: Property damage of $2,000 or more is considered a third-degree crime. Criminal mischief is also classified as a third-degree crime if a grave, crypt, or mausoleum is damaged or destroyed. Destruction of public utilities or public forms of transportation is also considered a crime in the third degree. The consequences for a third-degree charge are serving jail time between 3 to 5 years and fines up to $15,000.
- Second Degree: This is the most severe of the criminal mischief charges. If public property damage/destruction occurs and it leads to the death of a person, the criminal mischief is placed in the second-degree crime category. If this charge is received, the defendant will spend 5-10 years in jail and be fined up to $150,000.
As you can see, being charged with criminal mischief comes with hefty fines. Depending on the damage and the act committed, the fines can be as high as $150,000. In addition to fines, defendants will also owe restitution payments to the property owners to make up for the loss. Between the fines and restitution payments, defendants often end up owing a lot of money that they may not even have. In addition, criminal mischief charges come with jail time, which obviously puts the defendant out of work and can lead to further financial struggles. Thus, when you work with Leon Matchin, his main goal is to try to get the charges completely dropped or at least downgraded to a misdemeanor to avoid jail time and high fines.
Potential Defenses from New Jersey Law Firms
There are a few defense angles that are possible when fighting a criminal mischief case in court.
- Was the damage actually caused by the defendant? It is possible that even though the defendant acted out in some way, that the damage was already done previously or occurred after the fact. For example, if a defendant punched a window and it was already broken, the defendant can’t be blamed for the damage.
- Who owned the property? Another defense is determining who owns the property. If it was a personal piece of property or a piece of property you owned with someone else, this can be used as a defense as you were an owner or partial owner.
- Was it an accident? Remember, criminal mischief is purposeful. If you accidentally damage or destroy property and this can be proven in court, it serves as a strong defense against criminal mischief charges.
These are just a few examples of defenses that your lawyer can use to have the charge dropped or downgraded.
New Jersey Law Firms Can Help You Today
If you or a loved one has received a criminal mischief charge, it is important that you seek out the help of a lawyer as soon as possible. They can potentially help you avoid jail time and the costly fines associated with criminal mischief charges. There are so many New Jersey law firms that we know it can be hard to know who is best. Keep in mind that you want a lawyer who is experienced in the court of law. You also want someone who is kind, compassionate, and willing to listen to the details of your story. It is also important to look for a lawyer who has defended clients in similar situations to yours. For example, be cautious working with a lawyer who has never defended a criminal mischief charge before.
Fortunately, your search doesn’t have to go much further. Leon Matchin is the perfect lawyer for the job. He has been working as a lawyer for almost two decades. He has tremendous experience working with all types of charges, including those of criminal mischief. His compassionate attitude and openness to communicate make him an ideal person to work with. For more information, call the office of Leon Matchin today at 732-887-2479 or email him at [email protected].