What constitutes criminal mischief?

A friend is in custody for domestic violence and has charges for breaking her phone during an argument. WhIle he is in custody, she broke into his tool shed and destroyed items and gave some away. The police are saying it’s marital property and she can do whatever she wants. How come he gets charges for destroying property but she gets a free pass? Not understanding.

Asked on May 19, 2017 under Criminal Law, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Under New Jersey statutory criminal law, N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3a, criminal mischief is "(1) Purposely or knowingly damag[ing] tangible property of another...." Based on what you write, it appears that what they both did is criminal mischief, and there does not appear to be a legal basis for treating them differently: this may simply be police sexism, treating what a man does as "criminal" but waht a woman does as just a domestic dispute.

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