The offense of criminal mischief in Florida has the potential to produce extremely serious consequences for those accused, charged or convicted of it.
Essentially encompassing intentional acts of vandalism against property, criminal mischief can be charged as a misdemeanor or perhaps even a felony, based on the specific circumstances involved, and the amount of damages caused. Allegations of this nature must always be taken very seriously by anyone facing them.
A West Palm Beach criminal mischief attorney can prove invaluable in constructing a successful defense strategy in what can be a devastating charge if not handled correctly. Contact an experienced attorney today.
Florida Criminal Mischief Definition
As outlined in detail by Fla. Stat. §806.13, criminal mischief involves the malicious and willful damaging by any means of the personal or real property of another party.
The definition includes acts of vandalism and marking with graffiti, though this is by no means exhaustive of what may be deemed to fall under this category of offense. Slashing tires, breaking windows, intentionally trashing the interior of a home or “keying” a car are other “common” examples.
The classification of personal property can cover things like boats and other vehicles, while that of real property tends to implicate commercial buildings, residential homes and other structures.
Possible Penalties Upon Conviction
The severity of the sanctions faced by those found guilty of criminal mischief in Florida are largely determined by the extent of the property damage resulting from the defendant’s actions, and can escalate as follows:
- Cases involving property damage of no more than $200 subject Defendants to second-degree misdemeanor punishments which can include a jail sentence of up to 60 days and a fine of $500.00
- If the damage to property exceeds $200, but remains lower than $1,000, the resulting first degree misdemeanor conviction can yield upwards of a full year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.00
- Should the property damage be greater than $1,000 in value, a defendant faces third degree felony status, which may bring upwards of 5 years’ in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.00
Proving Criminal Mischief
It is important for those accused of criminal mischief in Florida to remember that for a conviction to occur, the state is required to prove three main elements and do so beyond a reasonable doubt, namely:
- That the accused individual did in fact cause damage to real or personal property;
- That the property harmed by the accused did belong to the victim named by the state;
- That the damage was done in a malicious and willful manner and;
- That the damage of the property was of a certain determined value (to determine the degree of the crime.)
When it comes to the defendant’s intent in a criminal mischief, the state needs only to establish that the accused individual acted with wrongful and willful intent and with the knowledge that damage could result. There is no need to prove that the actions were undertaken with the specific intent to in fact cause the specific damage that resulted.
Criminal Mischief Defenses
Though a detailed review of the facts in a given case is always necessary before a defense can be formulated, there are several types of arguments which are regularly employed on behalf of those charged with criminal mischief in Florida. These include but are not limited to:
- The damage ( if any ) was not, in fact, the direct result of the defendant’s actions
- The damage complained of was accidental
- The actions resulting in damage was not willful, but rather the product of an unintended action.
- The victim identified by the State did not own the property involved
- The defendant’s actions were undertaken in self-defense and thus legally justified
Anyone accused of criminal mischief is entitled to a legal defense, and by incorporating one or more of the above tactics, an experienced attorney may be able to substantially mitigate the negative impact on a defendant’s life and future prospects.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Mischief Attorney Today
If you or a loved one has been charged with a vandalism or similar offense, there is no time to waste.
By promptly consulting with a West Palm Beach criminal mischief attorney, it is possible to take a proactive role in safeguarding your right to fair treatment under the law and work towards the most positive outcome possible. Our Attorneys at Leifert & Leifert our goal is to get your West Palm Beach Criminal Mischief charge dismissed and kept off of your record.