Criminal mischief is a disorderly persons offense simply defined as the destruction of property under $500.00. A person can be charged with criminal mischief when: he or she purposely or knowingly damages the tangible property of another person; he or she recklessly or negligently causes property damage in the employment of a fire; or a renter causes damage to the rental property in retaliation for eviction proceedings.
A conviction for criminal mischief can lead to the standard disorderly persons penalties, including restitution for the value of the damage. However, as the cost of the damage increases over the $500.00 statutory limit, you could be charged with an indictable offense in the 3rd or 4th degree.
If you have or intend to become a school employee, a criminal mischief offense is of particular concern as it may be disqualifying. A school employee includes teachers, substitute teachers, teachers’ aides, child study team members, nurses, custodians, maintenance workers, cafeteria staff, or any person serving in a position which involves regular contact with pupils. These positions require a criminal background check conducted through the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Identification Division, or NJ State Bureau of Identification. A criminal record can become a bar to employment in many situations.