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How much longer is my charge of 4th degree criminal mischief going to take in court?

Merrick, NY |

My friend and I were caught on a security camera breaking a small tree at a local elementary school, and after two Nassau county detectives visited my house (I was not there at the time) we turned ourselves in, and were issued an appearance ticket for 4th degree criminal mischief. We assured them we wanted to cooperate, and pay the school back what they wanted for the tree, but after appearing in court on January 7th, we were told we must come back Feb 6th, with a lawyer, for "part 1". If all we want to do is pay the school back, why is it necessary to return with a lawyer, and how much longer is this process going to last?

Both my friend and I are 21, and have no prior criminal record. Alcohol was not involved.

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Attorney answers 5


I'm impressed with your apparent attitude about the situation, negatively impressed that is. Seems like you're a bit put out by the progress of the matter. An attitude that the Court perceives as bad will help you get the worst possible outcome. You are treating this as minor and want it over. Sometime down the road when you want to go to school, get financial aid, borrow money for a car or a house, get a job--I could go on, your approach to this issue will seem like a really bad play. Get an attorney to help or not as you so choose.



I can assure you, sir, that the only reason my attitude may seem negative is because I have other priorities in my life that outweigh this incident. Priorities like my job, and going to school, and trying to save money for a car. I completely understand the importance of settling this issue, but I do not fully understand the process. That's why I came to this site. If I wanted someone to presumptuously critique my attitude regarding the situation, I would've spoken to my father. Good effort though.

William A. Jones Jr.

William A. Jones Jr.


Please accept my apology for sounding like a parent, but I am one. There was within my parental statement sound legal advice for you. What I have found during my many years of practice, defendants who are like I believe you to be (white, middle class or above) often fail to appreciate the seriousness of a criminal charge. Your question makes it obvious that you have not been represented to this point. My more typical client has no illusions about the system. Again my sincere apology. I hope you get this straightened out in the most favorable fashion possible. It does make a difference.


You have been charged with a crime. It should not be more than a couple of appearances but you should try to avoid having a criminal record. You can try for legal aid representation but if that is unavailable you will be required to bring an attorney. Good luck.

I have been a criminal attorney in New York for almost 25 years. website: Phone #: 718-208-6094 email: This answer is only for informational purposes and is not meant as legal advice.


Simply paying the school back will not resolve the criminal charges that are now pending against you. This is not a civil matter that can be settled with money. It is a criminal matter. While your willingness to pay for any damage caused may ultimately help you get a favorable disposition, you will need a lawyer to represent you in court to ensure that your rights are protected. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may be entitled to a court-appointed lawyer. If you can afford an attorney, you will be required to hire one before the case will proceed.


While you may want to simply pay the school back and be finished with the case, it is not that simple. This is a criminal matter not a civil matter. You are charged with a class A misdemeanor that is punishable up to one year in jail and $1000 fine. Also, if you are convicted of a crime as a result of this case, you will have a permanent criminal record that cannot be erased or expunged. The State of New York is bringing an action against you and therefore, you need an attorney to negotiate a punishment that is acceptable to the State and the Judge. It may end up that paying restitution for the damage caused is the bulk of the punishment but that is up to your attorney to negotiate on your behalf. Since you were told to come back with attorneys it sounds as though the judge has made a determination that you do not qualify for a public defender. It may take as little as one court appearance for your lawyer to work out a deal or it can take up to 6 months or longer.

All answers are for information purposes only. Answering this question or any future questions does not form any attorney-client relationship. Be mindful, that answers are limited by the limited facts presented by the questioner and are not meant to take the place of competent legal advice by an attorney fully informed of all the facts surrounding your case. However, be aware that nothing posted in a public forum such as this can be deemed confidential or privileged communication.


I agree, you need an attorney to represent you in this case. Unfortunately, you won't be able to just pay for the damage and have the case dismissed. You will need an attorney to negotiate with the prosecutor and to thoroughly explain the criminal justice process as it relates to your case. You are facing a misdemeanor charge which carries a punishment of up to 1 year jail, 3 years probation as well as fines and other court fees. While it is unlikely that you will serve jail time if this is your first offense, you do not want to have a criminal record that will affect you for the rest of your life. If you can't afford to hire a lawyer, be sure to let the judge know that and ask to be screened for Legal Aid. Otherwise, feel free to contact me for a free consultation as I also work in Nassau County and have experience handling these types of cases.

Farah-Lise Rousseau, P.C.
626 Rexcorp Plaza #6724
Uniondale, NY 11556
Tel (516) 504-3580
Fax (516) 504-3582

I am a criminal defense attorney practicing in NYC and on Long Island. Please contact me directly for a private consultation as this answer is only for informational purposes and is not meant as legal advice.

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