Criminal mischief, under Florida law, is a serious crime with potentially heavy penalties. More often referred to as vandalism, criminal mischief can be treated as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances involved.
A felony conviction results in major consequences and a stigma that may never be erased. Therefore, anyone who has been charged with criminal mischief needs to seek representation from a defense attorney who understands this area of criminal law.
An experienced Ft Lauderdale criminal mischief lawyer will know how the laws apply to the circumstances of an individual case and how to work toward the best possible resolution.
Criminal Mischief Defined
Florida Statutes Section 806.13 defines criminal mischief as “willfully and maliciously” damaging property of another. That property may be personal property such as a vehicle or what the law refers to as “real” property such as land or a house or other buildings on that land.
The law specifically states that such damage includes graffiti. In fact, as a criminal mischief lawyer in Ft Lauderdale can explain, the law provides for additional penalties applicable to those placing graffiti on the property of another.
Penalties for Criminal Mischief
The severity of the crime depends primarily on the amount of damage that has been caused to the property. But certain circumstances can also increase the severity of the crime and the corresponding penalties.
The basic threshold is that if the damage caused is worth $200 or less, the criminal mischief is treated as a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. If the damage is worth between $200 and $1000, the crime becomes a first-degree misdemeanor and the fine increases to $1000 and the potential jail time increases to one year.
If the damage is worth more than $1000 or if the damage causes disruption to a business or public service that costs more than $1000 in labor and supplies to repair, then the criminal mischief is treated as a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Moreover, anyone convicted under the criminal mischief statute can be required to pay for the damage caused by the offense, in addition to paying any criminal penalties assessed making it important that anyone accused has a criminal mischief attorney in Ft Lauderdale on their side.
As mentioned above, certain circumstances will increase the penalties involved. If the criminal mischief involves graffiti, the following fines are imposed in addition to other fines and damage payments:
- At least $250 for a first conviction
- At least $500 for a second conviction
- At least $1,000 for third or subsequent convictions
In addition, those convicted of placing graffiti are also required to perform community service hours. If the graffiti has been placed by a minor, the parent or guardian becomes liable for the fine and the minor can face the loss or suspension of driving privileges. Other circumstances that increase the severity of the crime and corresponding penalties include:
- Previous conviction for the same offense
- The damaged property includes a place of worship
- The damaged property includes public telephone equipment
- The damaged property includes certain detention facilities
Talk to a Ft. Lauderdale Criminal Mischief Attorney Today
Because the circumstances play such a key role in the classifying of the severity of the crime and the potential penalties, it is crucial to work with a legal representative familiar with this area of law who can represent the situation in the best possible light and build a sound defense.
If you have been charged with criminal mischief, contact a knowledgeable Ft. Lauderdale criminal mischief lawyer as soon as possible.