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Defending Juvenile Criminal Mischief Charges

October 20, 2020

Although children and teens often engage in horseplay and messing around, conduct can easily escalate to the level of criminal mischief that can be punishable by community service, fines, and even jail time. Young people and their parents should familiarize themselves with what kinds of conduct may run afoul of New Jersey’s criminal laws. Even still, it is understandable that young people may not have a full understanding of the law or may not fully appreciate the consequences of a decision, leading to a mistake. 

If your child has been arrested for a criminal mischief offense, it is critical that you speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. In many cases, it may be possible to help your son or daughter avoid serious and lasting consequences of a juvenile or criminal conviction that can adversely impact their educational and employment opportunities long into the future.

Types of Juvenile Mischief Offenses

Older children and teens may commit all sorts of seemingly harmless pranks, such as spreading toilet paper all over someone’s house or throwing eggs at someone’s property but these pranks may lead to juvenile or criminal charges when they result in property damage or injury to someone.

One of the most common examples of juvenile or criminal charges for mischief is vandalism. Vandalism is defined as the damage to or defacing of public or private property. Vandalism is often charged for acts such as spraying graffiti, breaking the windows of someone’s house, or damaging a vehicle.

Juveniles engaging in mischief are also commonly detained on a charge of criminal trespass. Although entering property can seem completely harmless, it may constitute criminal activity, especially when juveniles break open locks, chains, or gates to gain access to property or ignore signs warning against trespass.

Penalties for Juvenile Mischief Convictions

The penalties for a juvenile or criminal conviction arising from mischief can vary based on the severity of the offense and whether a juvenile has a history of offenses. 

As most juvenile mischief offenses involve property damage, the severity of the offense is typically based on the value of the damaged property:

  • Less than $500 in property damage: A disorderly persons offense, which can result in six months in jail or detention
  • Between $500 and $1,999 in property damage, or damage to oil/gas/water service pipes: A fourth-degree crime, which can lead to up to 18 months in jail or detention
  • $2,000 or more in property damage: A third-degree crime, which can result in a prison or detention term of three to five years
  • Property damage resulting in impairment of public service that leads to death: A second-degree crime, which can result in a detention or prison sentence of five to 10 years

Punishments for convictions will be increased for a second and subsequent conviction, and can be as high as five years in prison or other detention for most criminal mischief offenses.

The Juvenile Legal System

The juvenile system is markedly different from the adult criminal justice system in that the primary purpose behind the juvenile system is to rehabilitate a juvenile to prevent him or her from committing crimes in the future, whereas rehabilitation is only one of several aims of the adult criminal justice system.

In the juvenile system, a young person still has a constitutional right to legal representation. It is critical that any juvenile facing criminal mischief charges exercise his or her right to an attorney. A conviction can have consequences long after completing a sentence of community service, fines, or jail time, as a criminal record can make it difficult to secure an education, employment or housing. With effective legal representation, you don’t have to let a childhood mistake impact the rest of your life.

Contact an Experienced Moorestown Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Juvenile Mischief Charges in New Jersey

Were you arrested or charged with juvenile mischief in New Jersey? The consequences of a conviction could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. The Law Offices of Michele Finizio have successfully represented clients charged with juvenile mischief in Medford, Burlington Township, Camden, Gloucester Township, and throughout New Jersey. Call (609) 230-0374 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team. We have an office conveniently located at 9 E. Main St., Moorestown, NJ 08057, as well as offices located in Cherry Hill.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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