Criminal Consequences of Statue Vandalism in Florida
Cities all around the country are removing Confederate statues and other political sculptures, and the cities in Florida are no different. In Gainesville, a Confederate statue known as “Old Joe” was removed, while in Tampa another monument is being moved from the front of the courthouse to a cemetery. Jacksonville is also currently in talks to remove all Confederate monuments from their public places.
The calls for removal across Florida and the rest of the nation likely stem from the protests and violence seen in areas like Charlottesville and North Carolina. But those in Florida who are considering vandalizing statues should keep in mind that while state laws surrounding vandalism are simple, they are also very clear.
Vandalism, also known as criminal mischief in Florida, is the willful and malicious destruction of property belonging to someone else. The terms willful and malicious indicate that if a person does not intend to cause property damage, they cannot be charged with criminal mischief. In the case of vandalizing or destroying a statue, however, it is difficult to state that the vandalism was unintentional.
Is Criminal Mischief a Misdemeanor or a Felony?
Criminal mischief can be considered either a misdemeanor or felony offense in Florida, depending on the amount of damage done. A second-degree misdemeanor charge would include damage valued at $200 or less with penalties of up to 60 days in jail. When the damage is more than $200 but less than $1,000, the charges may be increased to a first-degree misdemeanor. Those convicted can spend up to one year in jail.
Penalties for Statue Vandalism
In Florida, criminal mischief becomes a felony charge when the value of property damage is over $1,000. These offenses, if convicted, carry punishments of up to five years in jail. Florida may not have as many different classifications of criminal mischief as other states, but even the smallest incidences of vandalism can quickly climb to a felony charge if there is enough damage done. Florida officials are likely to become more serious about laying these charges as well. In August red paint was thrown around monuments in Confederate Memorial Park in Tampa.
The monuments were on private property and took a crew of volunteers an entire day to clean up. While there are no suspects in the case currently, police officials in many Florida cities are starting to increase security around these statues and monuments, and bring harsh penalties down on those who wish to vandalize them. If an individual has been charged with criminal mischief, they should reach out to an experienced criminal mischief lawyer that can build their case and potentially mitigate the penalties they face.