Articles Posted in Graffiti and Criminal Mischief

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In this blog, we continue our discussion of the common criminal charges people face when accused of Making Graffiti.

CRIMINAL MISCHIEF

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the various elements of the crimes of Making Graffiti and Possession of Graffiti Instruments, two charges which often go hand in hand in these types of cases. However, in cases where actual damage is caused to property, arrestees may find themselves faced with the charge of “Criminal Mischief” [Penal Law §145.00] (note that the Graffiti statute only requires intent to damage property, whereas this statute requires actual damage be caused). Once again, any argument that graffiti is “improving” property, absent permission by the property owner, will fail and graffiti that defaces property will be deemed to also damage it. Any damage to property, regardless of the dollar amount of such damage, would fall under Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree, which is a class “A” misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. In cases where damage is alleged to exceed $250.00, the charges may be elevated to Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree, a Class “E” felony which is punishable up to 1 and 1/3 – 4 years in jail for a first time offender. The addition of these charges can sometimes be problematic for those who seek to preserve their records and change the landscape of any plea negotiation.

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In this two-part series, we endeavor to help our readers understand the law of making graffiti in New York, as well as the usual charges that lie in criminal cases involving graffiti making. While some may view graffiti and “tagging” as a form of art, the New York City Police Department and local District Attorneys beg to differ. With Vandalism Squads and anti-graffiti initiatives in place, law enforcement’s message is clear: tolerance for graffiti making is low and it will not go unpunished. In this blog we discuss the charges commonly found in graffiti cases, most of which involve allegations of “tagging” or painting on public or the private property.

Making graffiti on property without the owner’s permission to do so is a class “A” misdemeanor in New York State, punishable by up to one year in jail. In recent years, the City has stepped up it’s effort to combat graffiti writing and enforce this law, with the New York City Police Department going as far as creating an anti-graffiti task force and offering cash rewards for people who continually violate the graffiti statute.

MAKING GRAFFITI

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firecracker

Fireworks Law in New York

Every Fourth of July, I usually get a question or two concerning the state of the law on fireworks in New York State. Most of us grew up enjoying fireworks on Independence Day, but the fact of the matter is that our legislature has determined that most fireworks are simply too dangerous for the citizens of New York to possess. Although the simple possession of fireworks is illegal, it is not necessarily criminal unless there is evidence of the intent to distribute or sell.

DEFINITIONS

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Many juveniles in New York City are arrested every week and given a family court summons for a crime that would otherwise subject him or her to a permanent criminal record. A juvenile is “defined” in the Penal Law as a person under the age of sixteen years old. To be more precise, it is actually a defense to a criminal charge that the defendant was less than sixteen at the time the offense was allegedly committed. See Penal Law 30.00. Often times juveniles are arrested for such offenses as Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fifth Degree, Penal Law 221.10, Unlawful Possession of Marijuana, Penal Law 221.05, Petit Larceny, Penal Law 155.25, Assault in the Third Degree, Penal Law 120.00, Criminal Mischief, Penal Law 145.00, and Making Graffiti, Penal Law 145.60. However, in other cases, the charges can be more serious, especially where a victim has been killed or seriously injured or a felony charge, such as a drug sale, are involved.

The Family Court process can be daunting for a family inexperienced in defending against allegations such as these, even in juvenile arrest matters. A young defendant and his or her family will most likely be interviewed by probation and if the charge warrants it, be brought before a judge where an adjudication of juvenile delinquency can be made either through an admission or, in some cases, after a fact-finding hearing. The Family Court Act requires the attendance of the juvenile respondent and his or her counsel to be present during such a hearing. It is for this reason, that it is important that your child’s rights are protected by a lawyer experienced in handling juvenile arrest cases. If an adjudication of juvenile delinquency is made, the Family Court Act requires a dispositional hearing to take place within 10 days of the adjudication (if the charge is a felony) or within 50 days of the adjudication (for all other cases). The possible outcomes of a dispositional hearing for a juvenile defendant are three: (i) a conditional discharge, which for all intents and purposes is an order from the court requiring the juvenile to stay out of trouble and comply with whatever other conditions the court deems necessary to correct the behavior, (ii) probation, which would imply reporting to a probation officer for a set period of time, or, in extreme cases (iii) placement in a juvenile detention facility. The court’s decision will be the result of a balancing of the needs of the juvenile against the need to protect the community.

Simply put, should a loved one or family member of yours require assistance in sorting out a family court or adult criminal matter, you should call Galluzzo & Arnone LLP.