I was just given a compliant for criminal mischief - under $500, for covering up gang graffiti on a phone pole and a dumpster with a magic marker (gangs are ruining my neighborhood and I was trying to cover up their tags). I have no priors and need to go to court in a month, what should I expect? Will the judge take this seriously? Will they offer me a reasonable plea?
We have the world's greatest system of Justice here in the USA; however, it is far, far from perfect.
As you have learned (the hard way), many times the investigating officer either has no discretion due to departmental policies or chooses not to exercise his or her discretion in a given case. The officer may be hoping that "someone" will catch the case, see it for what it is, and exercise some common sense.
Many times the final arbiter in cases such as yours is the judge or jury. Only then will someone step up and do what is right in the case.
Unfortunately for you, getting your case through "the system" and in front of someone with the authority to do what needs to be done will take some time, persistence, and patience on your part.
If things go as they should, the prosecutor will see this for what it is and will handle the matter in a way that you can live with. I wish you the best.
It carries up to a $1000 fine and up to a year of jail, but don't expect either of those for a first offense. You will be likely that they will offer you a deferred judgment and sentence for 12 or 18 months with restitution and possibly public service. You might be able to get a better deal or even a dismissal with an attorney on board. Call around to see if you can get one.
I agree with my colleagues. Based on what you are saying, this is the kind of case that having a good attorney could really help you with the outcome. There are never any guarantees for any particular case, but I think it'd definitely be worth your time to talk to one or more attorneys to find someone you feel comfortable with and who you can afford. The police write many complaints that should never have been written. Far too many people walk in and plead guilty to whatever the prosecutor offers.
The judge will not take any position. The prosecutor is the person who has to decide if the case is for real or not.
There are many good criminal defense attorneys here on Avvo. Many of us offer free consultations.
Best of luck.
Comply by appearing, however, consider retaining a counsel to defend your rights fully.
You may presume that the judge will take it seriously until you hear a different view expressed from the bench. You need to consult with a criminal defense attorney asap.
This is a class 2 misdemeanor and has a potential penalty from 3-12 months in the county jail; however, jail is not a real possibility in your case unless there is some other fact that is really aggravating. You will probably be offered a plea to the charge with probation, restitution, and community service. DA's are sometimes wary of believing people charged with a crime, but it sounds like your case should be dismissed entirely. A quality defense attorney may be able to negotiate this for you, and I would use this site to seek out one that you like. Good luck.
Crimes require both the "actus reus," the physical act, and the "mens rea," the culpable mental state. It sounds like to me that your intentions weren't criminal. So, fight it! If you truly were just covering up tags--because as we know, tags invite more tags--then I'd say you're innocent. But, you'll have to probably set it for trial and prove it to a jury. Good luck, John