New Jersey Vandalism Laws

The vast majority of crimes committed in the U.S. are not violent crimes; rather, most of the crimes committed in the country are property crimes such as vandalism. Individuals who violate state vandalism laws by intentionally damaging or destroying property can be charged under vandalism itself if the state actually uses the term. But if you're prosecuted for committing vandalism in New Jersey, you will be charged under the offense of criminal mischief.

Graffiti Charges

There are many different forms of criminal mischief or vandalism. Graffiti is a familiar example. In New Jersey the actual charges for graffiti fall within the criminal mischief statute because the state doesn't have a separate statute. However, New Jersey does impose enhanced penalties when someone is convicted of a graffiti offense: the perpetrator is required to pay restitution to the owner of the damaged property and must perform community service which includes removing the graffiti from the property, if appropriate.

New Jersey Vandalism Laws at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of statutes related to New Jersey's vandalism laws, including links to important code sections.

Statute and Elements of the Crime

  • New Jersey Statutes 2C: 17-3 (Criminal mischief)

Purposeful or knowing property damage or reckless or negligent damage while using explosives, fire or other dangerous means or purposeful or knowing tampering with another's property to endanger a person or property.

Penalties

The penalties will depend on factors including the monetary amount of damage and the specific details of the case.

Fourth degree crime:

  • Damage caused is valued at more than $500 but less than $2,000. It's a disorderly persons offense if the actor causes a loss of $500 or less.
  • Regardless of the value amount, if the act of vandalism involves tampering with gas lines, cable lines, or telecommunication lines, the offense is in the fourth degree.

Third degree crime:

  • Damage caused is valued at $2,000 or more.
  • Regardless of the value amount, if damage caused at a cemetery, grave site, mausoleum, or research property at a research facility.
  • Regardless of the value amount, if damage cause an interruption of public transportation or utilities.

Graffiti:

  • In addition to any other court-imposed penalty, restitution and community service are required.

Tampering with airport landing or other aviation facility:

  • Third degree crime
  • If it recklessly causes a death, then it's a second degree crime.

Possible Defenses

  • Lack of intent
  • Mistaken identity

Related Offense

  • Disorderly persons offense: New Jersey Statutes 2C:33-2

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

New Jersey Vandalism Laws: Related Resources

Talk to a New Jersey Attorney about Vandalism

If you're been accused of violating New Jersey's vandalism laws, you shouldn't take it lightly. A conviction of criminal mischief can cause irreparable harm to your record. Talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney who can analyze your options.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

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