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Criminal mischief is one of the more common accusations in the United States, but what exactly is it? In essence, it amounts to property damage and is usually counted as a disorderly persons offense. Still, many different factors go into a criminal mischief charge, so let’s take a closer look at what it really means.

Criminal Mischief

The term “criminal mischief” means different things in different countries, but in the US, it usually boils down to vandalism and other types of defacing. Graffiti on public property is one example. Destroying a gravestone or statue is another. Any time a person destroys or damages someone else’s property – including public property – he or she could face a criminal mischief charge.

Different Penalties

As mentioned earlier, criminal mischief often counts as a disorderly persons offense, which is only a misdemeanor. In some cases, however, a judge may consider an act of mischief a crime. Different acts also come with different penalties. This disparity depends on a few different things. First, a judge would consider the amount of money that the damaged property is worth. For a property worth less than $500, the perpetrator may face a maximum of 6 months in jail and some fines. More expensive property destruction can mean more jail time and bigger fines.

Second, the type of property also matters in these cases. For example, the destruction of graves, crypts, and similar properties are considered third-degree crimes instead of misdemeanors. Any destruction that causes an interruption in public services also counts as a third-degree crime. For these charges, a person can spend 3 to 5 years in jail.

Other Factors

Other factors may complicate a criminal mischief case. Specifically, criminal mischief charges may also come with trespassing charges. Trespassing may not become a factor in cases that involve public property like bridges and sidewalks. However, anyone who defaces private property or property that has specific visiting hours may face trespassing charges. When seeking legal advice, a person accused of criminal mischief and trespassing should seek a lawyer who is equipped to handle both charges.

Legal Counsel

If you’re looking for legal advice about a criminal mischief charge, Leon Matchin has the expertise you need. As an experienced criminal defense lawyer, Leon Matchin understands New Jersey Law. If you need someone who can build your defense, then contact Leon Matchin to get your free consultation. Email [email protected], or call (833) 732-7320.