While it may sound odd to some Ocean County residents, criminal mischief is a very real offense that could leave one facing some serious consequences. Indeed, the Drug Policy Alliance shows that 3,727 people were arrested in New Jersey on charges of criminal mischief in 2011.
New Jersey state law defines criminal mischief in two ways: The first is any activity that results in property damage from the use of explosives, fire, flooding, an avalanche or hazardous materials. The second is to tamper with property so as to create a potential hazard to people or the property itself. In each case purposeful intent must be present in order to justify the charge.
If one causes damages to a rental unit after being evicted, he or she may have to re-pay the property owner for the full monetary loss that was incurred as a result of his or her actions. The same holds true for cases of graffiti. In addition, those who placed it may be ordered by the court to remove it themselves.
Other than private property, there are specific facilities and areas of infrastructure whose damage automatically qualifies for certain levels of criminal mischief charges. These include:
- Traffic signs and signals
- Research facilities
- Airports and helipads
- Utility lines
Damages to any of these areas will net a fourth or third degree offense. If the damages result in injuries to others, the offense is immediately upgraded to the third degree. If they result in another’s death, one will face a second degree charge.
As was mentioned, purposeful intent must be present in order for the law to apply. Thus, if any damages one caused were unknown or unintentional, he or she may make such an argument to the court. This could be the key to avoiding criminal charges.