According to Florida Statute 806.13 a person commits 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.
Basically what that means is that if you willfully damage or deface anyone else’s property, you are looking at being arrested for criminal mischief (vandalism) charges.
The prosecutor is required to prove the following three elements in a criminal mischief case:
- You damaged or destroyed property
- The property damaged belonged to the victim
- You acted in a willful or malicious manner
Penalties for a Criminal Mischief (Vandalism) Charge
The monetary amount of the damage is what determines the severity of both the charge and the penalty.
- When the property damage is valued at $200 or less, the person commits a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail.
- When the property damage is greater than $200 but less than $1,000, the offense is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail.
- When the amount of damage to the property exceeds $1,000, the offense is a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment.
What does that mean? It means that you could commit the exact same crime as another person and still be leveled with a higher charge if the amount of damages is higher. I’ve written about this before, with the example of keying a regular car vs. a luxury model. Technically it’s the same crime, but the luxury car is going to cost a lot more to fix, which can mean the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony.
Thankfully there are many defenses available to fight criminal mischief charges, but you’ll need a skilled criminal attorney to make the best case on your behalf.
Defenses to a Criminal Mischief Charge
- The damage was accidental, not intentional
- Ownership, or co-ownership of the property that was damaged
- It was not the conduct of the accused that actually caused the damage
- Legal justification/extenuating circumstances for the accused’s conduct
- The conduct that caused the damage was in self defense
Every case is different and appropriate defenses depend on the circumstances surrounding your individual case. If you’re facing criminal mischief charges we’d be happy to help. Call now to schedule a free strategy session with our firm: (754) 206-6200.