Vandalism in New Jersey is classified as criminal mischief, and despite the somewhat innocuous description of “mischief,” the crime still carries weighty penalties. Criminal mischief may be punishable by up to $15,000 in fines and half a decade in prison, but that's not the end of it. After your arrest or conviction, you're likely to find that your criminal record continues to haunt you.
Is Vandalism a Serious Crime?
When you think of vandalism, you might think of spray paint on a building. In fact, vandalism encompasses a variety of actions that result in damage to property. The severity of the charge will range from a Disorderly Persons Offense to an Indictable Offenses. The more serious Indictable Offenses range from the most serious first-degree charges down to the fourth-degree.
Vandalism resulting in a Disorderly Persons Offense is triggered when under $500 of damage occurs. The charge could escalate to an Indictable Offense and will be considered a fourth-degree offense when the damage is between $500 and $2,000. If the damage exceeds $2,000, the criminal charge will rise to the third degree. In some instances, the cost of the damage done isn't as significant as the type of activity that occurs. For example, vandalizing a grave can result in a third-degree charge, and in rare instances, vandalism could be charged even as a second-degree crime if it results in the death of another.
Does Vandalism Goes on Your Criminal Record in New Jersey?
If you've been arrested, charged, or convicted of vandalism in New Jersey, evidence of such will appear on your criminal record. Even when you're arrested, and the charges are later dropped because prosecutors don't have enough evidence to convict you of the crime, your arrest record for the accusations remains.
Unfortunately, even mistakes you made when you were younger may have long-lasting impacts. Your criminal record can plague you for years. Anytime you need to submit to a background check, an arrest or conviction for vandalism will appear. These days, landlords, employers, colleges, and professional licensing boards may all require you to pass a background check before they offer their approval.
We all do things we're not proud of, and those who wish to leave the past in the past and move forward with their lives should be allowed to do so. New Jersey law provides a legal avenue for a fresh start in the form of expungement. Expungements are available to many who have a criminal record, and if you'd like to pursue an expungement of your record, you should consider seeking out the legal guidance of an experienced expungement attorney.
New Jersey Expungement
New Jersey expungement means the “extraction” of information relating to criminal proceedings against you. You should understand that when your criminal record is expunged, it does not mean you've been forgiven of the crimes. It does, however, mean that evidence of criminal activity you've been accused of is no longer discoverable through background checks. In most circumstances, you're not required by law to disclose the criminal activity even when asked, so long as your criminal record's been effectively expunged.
The road to expungement in New Jersey can be complicated. To initiate the process, you will need to formally request your records from each agency and jurisdiction from which you'd like the records to be extracted. Once you have all of the records, you will prepare a Petition for Expungement that you'll file with the court. The judge assigned to your case then reviews your petition. In some cases, the judge will issue an order approving your Petition for Expungement, but in other cases, the judge may call a hearing where you'll be required to defend your request for expungement against agencies that may oppose it.
If your Petition for Expungement is ultimately approved, you must send formal notice to numerous state agencies to notify them that they need to begin extracting your criminal record. Many don't realize that the expungement process requires patience, and even when the order is approved, there is still work to do before the crimes are removed from your record.
Vandalism and Expungement Eligibility
Not every crime is eligible for expungement in New Jersey. It's important to know if the acts of vandalism you were accused of were charged as Disorderly Persons Offenses or Indictable Offenses. In New Jersey, if a criminal act is charged in the first through fourth degree, then it's considered an Indictable Offense—akin to a felony in other jurisdictions. On the other hand, if no degree of severity is associated with the charge, then it is considered a Disorderly Persons Offense—known as misdemeanors in other states.
While some Indictable Offenses, such as violent crimes, are not eligible for expungement, vandalism in most cases would be eligible so long as the requisite waiting period has been met. The waiting period for both Indictable Offenses and Disorderly Persons Offenses is 5 years after conviction, though in some cases, you may be eligible for an “early pathway.” Further, if you were arrested but not convicted, then the waiting period is only 6 months, and if the crime was charged as juvenile delinquency, then the waiting period is just 3 years.
The number of offenses on your criminal record may be another hurdle to overcome in your expungement petition. While the Clean Slate expungement program allows individuals to expunge all qualifying convictions so long as a 10-year waiting period has passed, if only 5 to 9 years have passed then you should understand that you're limited to expunging 1 Indictable Offense along with 3 Disorderly Persons Offenses. Alternatively, 4 Disorderly Persons Offenses are eligible for expungement if no Indictable Offenses are also on your criminal record.
Finding an Expungement Attorney in New Jersey
You might feel overwhelmed by the complexity of the expungement process, but a seasoned expungement attorney will guide you through the process and help ensure not only that you've properly filed your Petition for Expungement, but that you're ready to defend any objections to your petition. Joseph D. Lento has helped countless others expunge their criminal records so that they can move forward with successful futures. If you need help expunging your criminal record in New Jersey, call 888-535-3686 today.