What Happens When Your Family Gathering Gets Out of Control?

November 23, 2016 · by igniweb · in

Oh, the holidays! It’s a great time to be with family, but unfortunately, not everyone’s family is a great time to be with. Between alcohol, politics, and Aunt Ethel still being mad that you never wear the pink sweater she knitted for 10 years ago (I’m a 43-year-old man, Aunt Ethel. Just let it go!), sometimes the holidays can be a little… let’s just say, “tense.”

While we all hope that tension does not boil over into criminal behavior, there could be serious consequences if it does. Here’s a look at some situations that, hopefully, won’t come up this year.

Assault. Who’s idea it was to let Aunt Mary cook the turkey this year? Two bottles of wine and one burnt bird later, she and your stepmother are in each other’s face – with their fists. Aunt Mary can be charged with assault even she doesn’t actually hurt your stepmom; she merely needs to have “intended to cause bodily harm.” There are two levels of assault: simple and aggravated. Simple assault applies if Aunt Mary knowingly or negligently hurt someone. In that case, she could face up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines. To be charged with aggravated assault, Aunt Mary must show “extreme indifference to the value of human life,” much like Grandma does when she serves her tuna casserole. Aggravated assault is a second-degree crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison, but no one is pressing charges against Grandma (yet).

Vandalism. Cousin Gary doesn’t share your political views, and that’s just fine. However, if he scratches up your car because of whom you voted for earlier this month, then he is committing vandalism. The consequences for Gary depend on the amount of damage done. Damage valued at less than $500 is a disorderly persons offense, which means Gary could face up to six months in jail. If the damage is valued between $500 and $2,000, it is considered a fourth-degree crime, which can result in up to 18 months in prison, plus fines.

Serving Alcohol to a Minor. Oh, great! No one was watching Uncle Francis and he slipped a few beers to your 12-year-old brother. Unfortunately for Uncle Francis, this is a disorderly persons offense and a conviction would lead to up to six months in jail and a fine of up $1,000. There are exceptions to this rule, however. If your parents were present and provided permission, then Uncle Francis is off the hook even if Grandpa says we should all press charges. (Settle down, Grandpa.) New Jersey law also allows for serving alcohol for religious purposes.

Arson. Well, that’s it. Grandpa has had enough. He’s disappointed with all of you and is just going to burn the whole house down – literally. In most cases, Grandpa is looking at a charge of second-degree arson or third-degree arson, depending on how much danger the act posed to the rest of the family. A second-degree conviction means Grandpa will face between five and 10 years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $150,000. (Good-bye, inheritance!) A less-severe third-degree conviction could result in three to five years in prison, plus up to $15,000 in fines. Now we’ll just have to figure out whether or not you should include him in next year’s Secret Santa.

Hopefully your Thanksgiving won’t venture into criminal territory. If you or a loved one end up getting charged with assault, vandalism, or any other criminal offense in New Jersey, contact an attorney for help. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law Firm are skilled criminal defense attorneys with experience helping people in similar situations. Email the Rosenblum Law Firm or call 888-979-7551 today for a free consultation about your case.

And next year, maybe don’t let Aunt Mary cook the turkey.