Vandalism is a very common phenomenon in New Jersey and elsewhere. New Jersey is no stranger to graffiti, and many people have woken up to find that their property or a neighbor’s property was damaged during the night by persons unknown. This blog post will provide a little more information about the offense of vandalism in New Jersey, which usually impacts juvenile defendants.
The technical term for vandalism in the Garden State is “defacement or damage of property by placement of symbol, object or graffiti.” If it is proved beyond a reasonable doubt that a person purposely defaced or damaged — without authorization of the tenant or owner — any private premises, or property primarily used for residential, educational, cemetery, memorial, charitable or religious purposes or property used for meetings of people to defend legal or constitutional rights, the person may be found guilty of a crime.
The classifications of defacement in the law include symbols, objects, characterizations, appellations or graffiti. The defacement must expose another to threat of violence.
The threat of violence is an essential part of the offense of defacement or damage of property by placement of symbol, object or graffiti. If this element is not present, then the defendant cannot be convicted of this particular offense. Depending on the individual circumstances, it may be possible to convict a defendant of a different offense, if the other elements are proved.
Young people are often accused of vandalism, either as a part of alleged gang activity or of other youthful misadventures. A conviction can alter the trajectory of a young person’s life in undesirable ways. Young people or their parents should investigate possible criminal defense options, if they are faced with graffiti charges.