Florida Criminal Mischief: Charges & Penalties

Criminal mischief in Florida, commonly known as vandalism, may seem inoffensive. However, placing graffiti or committing any act of vandalism is considered a criminal offense. In other words, if you are found guilty of criminal mischief in Florida, you could face harsh punishments. 

Many Floridians are unaware of the potential consequences that vandalism can lead to. Although they may seem harmless, criminal mischief offenses can be expensive. As a result, the prosecution does not take these charges lightly. 

If you are facing a criminal mischief charge in Florida, you should consult a criminal defense attorney near you as soon as possible. If you are facing charges in the Tampa Bay area, we may be able to help. Call 727-828-3900 to book a free consultation. 

What Is Criminal Mischief in Florida?

According to Florida Statute §806.13, a person commits criminal mischief by damaging someone else’s real or personal property intentionally. As established in this statute, criminal mischief includes placing graffiti or committing any other acts of vandalism against such property. 

Although most people relate graffiti to vandalism, other actions can also fall under criminal mischief. Examples of criminal mischief in Florida include, but are not limited to: 

  • Breaking windows
  • Causing damage to vehicles
  • Destroying mailboxes 
  • Trashing real estate property
  • Defacing monuments or real estate property

When a person is charged with criminal mischief in Florida, the State must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt to convict an alleged offender. The elements of criminal mischief are: 

  • The defendant damaged personal or real estate property. 
  • Such property belongs to someone else.
  • The defendant damaged the property intentionally and maliciously.

In Florida, criminal mischief is a misdemeanor exception. This means law enforcement can arrest you without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe you committed an act of criminal mischief. 

You should speak to a criminal defense lawyer if you were arrested for criminal mischief. Contact us today to book a free consultation. 

Penalties for Criminal Mischief Charges in Florida

Criminal mischief offenses can be punished as a misdemeanor or a felony. The severity and penalties associated with a criminal mischief charge in Florida vary depending on the presence of prior convictions, the amount of damage caused, and the type of property affected. 

Misdemeanor criminal mischief

Under Florida law, criminal mischief is considered a second-degree misdemeanor if the damage is less than $200. A conviction for this offense can result in up to 60 days of jail and a fine of up to $500. 

However, if the damage ranges from $200 to less than $1,000, the offense will be classified as a misdemeanor of the first degree. Penalties include up to 1 year of jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. 

Felony criminal mischief

Severe forms of vandalism are classified as third-degree felonies. The punishments for felony criminal mischief include up to 5 years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of $5,000. The following actions can lead to a felony criminal mischief charge: 

  • Having prior criminal mischief convictions. 
  • The damage caused is $1,000 or more
  • The damage caused led to the interruption of a business operation or public service. 
  • Defacing or damaging a place of worship or a religious article within the property. 
  • Defacing or damaging a memorial or historic property without permission. 
  • Causing damages or destroying public telephones or equipment that renders a public telephone inoperable. 
  • Causing more than $200 in damages to a sexually violent predator facility. 

In addition to these penalties, you may also be required to pay for the damages caused. 

Additional penalties for graffiti offenses

A charge for placing graffiti also carries the following penalties: 

  • Minimum 40 hours of community service
  • Suspension or revocation of driver’s license for juvenile offenders 
  • Pay a fine of less than:
    • $200 for a first conviction
    • $500 for a second conviction
    • $1,000 for a third or subsequent conviction

Defenses for Criminal Mischief

As established before, the State must prove three elements to convict a person for criminal mischief in Florida. One of those elements is the intent. In other words, the prosecution must prove that you meant to damage someone else’s property.  

The most common defense for criminal mischief charges is lack of intent. This means that if your criminal defense attorney proves that the damage resulted from an accident, for example, you cannot be convicted for criminal mischief. 

In Stinnett v. State, the defendant faced criminal mischief and aggravated assault charges. During an altercation, Stinnett fired a gun, and the shot hit a parked car, leading to a criminal mischief charge. 

However, a couple of witnesses explained that the defendant aimed his gun directly to another person rather than the car. For his part, Stinnett mentioned that the shot resulted from an accident.

The evidence showed that the defendant either fired the gun by accident or hit the car when he was missing the person he was attempting to shoot. However, there was no evidence that Stinnett meant to damage the vehicle. Because he did not intend to damage the car, his conviction for criminal mischief was reversed.  

Although lack of intent is a common defense for these cases, it is important to notice that a legal defense depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case.

Speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney

At first glance, vandalism may not seem as alarming as other criminal charges. However, the punishments for a criminal mischief conviction in Florida can be harsh and costly. You owe it to yourself to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. 

Goldman Wetzel is a criminal defense law firm representing clients facing criminal charges in the Tampa Bay area. If you were accused of a crime and are seeking a criminal defense attorney near St. Petersburg, Bradenton or Tampa, we may be able to help. Call 727-828-3900 or send us a message via contact form to book a free consultation with one of our defense lawyers.