The State of Florida takes vandalism seriously. A single instance of vandalism — of willfully damaging another’s property — can lead to criminal mischief charges, an offense which can mean stiff penalties if convicted. If you or your teen is facing criminal mischief charges in St. Petersburg, contact a defense lawyer at Goldman Wetzel today to discuss the proper steps to take: 727-828-3900.
What does “criminal mischief” entail?
Criminal mischief is generally synonymous with vandalism. Florida Statute § 806.13(1)(a) defines criminal mischief:
A person commits the offense of criminal mischief if he or she willfully and maliciously injures or damages by any means any real or personal property belonging to another, including, but not limited to, the placement of graffiti thereon or other acts of vandalism thereto.
Many acts can lead to arrests for criminal mischief. A few common examples include:
- Graffitiing a building
- Keying someone’s car
- Breaking windows
What potential penalties do I face with a criminal mischief conviction?
The word “mischief” might suggest frivolous conduct, but the penalties are actually quite serious. Having any convictions on your record can damage your career and job opportunities, not to mention lead to a jail sentence and fines. The severity of the penalties you face depends on the degree of damage.
- If the damage was $200 or less: second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
- If the damage was above $200 and less than $1,000: first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
- If the damage was $1,000 or more: third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Also, if you have prior criminal mischief convictions on your record, the state will automatically upgrade your charges to a third degree-felony, irrespective of the value of the damages.
If the offender is a minor, the courts will mandate that the parents pay for the damage. Also, if the minor is of driving age, the courts can revoke driving privileges for up to a year.
How can I defend against criminal mischief charges?
The most common defense against criminal mischief charges is lack of intent. In order for the prosecution to convict you, they have to be able to prove you had the intent to cause damage. If it was an accident, you were not engaged in criminal mischief. For example, if you were playing baseball and hit a ball that accidentally broke someone’s windshield, the prosecution might have to drop its case.
The best defense for criminal mischief depends upon the facts and circumstances of your case. Work with an attorney as soon as possible so she has the time to compile supportive evidence, strengthen your case, and prepare for your hearing.