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Artist who painted bridge may have criminal defense to charges

When a person commits a crime that has free speech and political overtones, it can become a matter of controversial public debate in New Hampshire and elsewhere. That may be happening with respect to the recent arrest of a female street artist by the Rochester Police Department. The controversial undertones of the case may also impact on the strategy that the woman's criminal defense attorney will choose going forward.

The woman recently painted a "Black Lives Matter" mural on a public bridge on Blackwater Road. She was arrested by the authorities on a charge of criminal mischief and released on a $1500 recognizance bond. She faces up to one year in jail on the charge, which is framed as a Class A misdemeanor.

That classification applies if the destruction to property is between $100 to $1,000. Damage over that amount can be charged as a felony, with a maximum seven-year sentence. The depiction was reportedly the woman's way of protesting the treatment of African Americans by local police departments nationwide.

The many incidents have been well publicized. The defendant is reportedly a recognized award-winning artist who has been doing it for the past 25 years. She also claims to be empathetic to the problems of African Americans in their travails with the police in some communities.

It may be that her expressed political and sociological comments as an artist can go to constructing a viable criminal defense. To be convicted of criminal mischief in New Hampshire, the defendant must have purposely or recklessly damaged the property of another, or vandalized it. It may be argued that she had no criminal intent to damage property and that, based on her recognized artistic skills, she did not in fact damage the property at all.

Source: unionleader.com, "Police arrest Rochester woman for painting 'Black Lives Matter' mural on state property", Kimberley Haas, July 28, 2016

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