Being charged with second degree criminal mischief is a serious obstacle.
Criminal Mischief (N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3) is usually thought of as a form of property crime, and is often charged as a disorderly persons offense in municipal court. This is comparable to a misdemeanor in other states.
There are, however, three circumstances spelled out in the law where Criminal Mischief will be charged as a high level felony (felonies in New Jersey are called ‘indictable offenses’), as spelled out below:
- If a person damages, removes, or impairs the operation of devices that regulate air traffic safety at an airport, and the conduct recklessly results in someone’s death, the charge is a second degree crime.
- If a person tampers with an airstrip, landing field, heliport, or other aviation landing zone and the conduct recklessly results in someone’s death, the charge is a second degree crime.
- If a person knowingly causes a significant interruption or impairment of public communication, transportation, or services and the conduct recklessly results in someone’s death, the charge is a second degree crime.
These are tightly worded circumstances. The use of “reckless” is significant in legal language.
One way that conduct is evaluated in a criminal matter is by the intentionality of the act. This is whether or not someone intended to do something.
For instance, a person who plans out a killing and then does so will be charged with murder, because the statute applies when one “purposely” or “knowingly” causes death or serious injury that leads to death.
On the other hand, a person whose conduct is not intended to result in a death but does so can be charged with manslaughter rather than murder.
The NJ manslaughter statute specifies that a death that occurs “recklessly” and without intention, can still be a criminal homicide, but the lack of intention is what separates manslaughter from murder.
To bring the illustration back to Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree, the reason why the statute is so dangerous for a defendant is that by specifying that “recklessly” causing a death in particular circumstances is a crime means that you cannot argue that you didn’t mean to do it.
That’s the point – your conduct was unlawful, reckless, and it led to a tragic outcome.
If you’re convicted of Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree, you could spend the next decade in prison.
You need a good lawyer to get through this.
If you’ve been charged with Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree under 2C:17-3, call Matthew Reisig today at 732-625-9661 for a free consultation with an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney.