Arson and Criminal Mischief in New Jersey

Arson and criminal mischief are serious charges in New Jersey involving the destruction of property.  Arson can be charged as a 2nd or 3rd degree crime depending on how serious it is.  Criminal Mischief can be charged up to a 3rd degree crime if the value lost or destroyed exceeds $2,000.  But when the value of the property is less, then the charge could be a 4th degree or a disorderly persons offense.


2C:17-1. Arson. Arson is starting a fire or explosion on your property or someone else’s thereby 1) placing someone in danger of death or bodily injury, or 2) placing a building in danger of destruction, or 3) for the purpose of collecting insurance, or 4) to avoid zoning laws, or 5) destroying a forest.  Arson comes in two types: aggravated arson and arson.  Aggravated arson is a 2nd degree crime while arson is a 3rd degree crime.  The only difference between the two types is that aggravated arson requires purposeful conduct while arson requires reckless conduct.


2C:17-3. Criminal Mischief. Criminal mischief is damaging another’s property. The seriousness of the charge depends on the value of the property destroyed or the risk of harm caused by the damage.  For example, under 2C:17-3b(1), criminal mischief is a crime of the 3rd degree when the value causes a loss of more than $2,000, between $500 and $200 is a 4th degree, and below $500 is a disorderly persons offense. Graffiti is considered criminal mischief and treated as a disorderly persons offense requiring in addition to the normal fines and fees imposed, restitution, and community service not less than the amount of time necessary to remove the graffiti.


2C:17-3.1. Traffic sign damage/removal.  Damaging, defacing or removing a traffic sign is a disorderly persons offense.  If performed by a minor, the minor’s parents are responsible for paying for the damage.

If you are facing a arson or criminal mischief charge you should consider hiring a criminal lawyer to ensure the best outcome to your case.

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