Criminal Mischief Offenses in Florida


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Criminal Mischief is, for all intents and purposes, "vandalism". In Florida, this property crime may be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the extent of damage, the nature of the property involved, and whether the accused person has prior convictions for the same offense.

In accordance with Florida Statutes section 806.13, a person commits the offense of 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. "Real property" includes homes, buildings and similar structures,
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whereas "personal property" includes things such as cars and boats.

If the damage to the property is $200.00 or less, then the offense constitutes a misdemeanor of the second degree. A second degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to sixty days in jail and up to six months of probation (the total sentence cannot exceed six months). If the damage to the property is greater than $200.00, but less than $1,000.00, then the offense constitutes a misdemeanor or the first degree. A first degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in the county jail and up to one year of probation (the total sentence cannot exceed one year). If the damage to the property is greater than $1,000.00, then the offense constitutes a felony of the third degree, which is punishable by up to five years in the Florida Department of Corrections (state prison).

As with all felony offenses, a person's sentence will, in large part, be determined by the person's score on Florida's sentencing guidelines. In terms of offense level, criminal mischief does not, in and of itself, score mandatory prison. This does not mean, however, that the court cannot sentence the accused person to prison time. Also, the person may score mandatory prison if there are other felony offenses before the court for sentencing, or the person's prior criminal history is extensive. Questions about your case, relating particularly to sentencing and guideline issues, should be directed to an experienced Tampa Bay area criminal defense attorney.

Criminal mischief is an offense that may be "reclassified" depending on the existence of a prior conviction. Many offense statutes in Florida have these types of recidivist provisions (others include, for example, theft, prostitution, driving on a suspended license, and DUI). If the accused person has one or more prior convictions for criminal mischief, then any subsequent offense may be prosecuted as a felony, without regard to the extent of damage.

Felony criminal mischief charges may also be brought if the property involved is a church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship, or any religious article contained therein. However, the damages under this scenario must exceed $200.00. If not, the person will be prosecuted for a misdemeanor (assuming, of course, that the state can prove its case). The same principles apply if the property involved is a sexually violent predator detention or commitment facility.

If the property involved is a public telephone or its cables, wires, antennas, or other fixtures, then the person may be prosecuted for a felony. Here, the extent of damage is immaterial. However, to sustain a felony charge, a conspicuous notice of the proscribed conduct and the associated penalty must be posted on or near the destroyed or damaged instrument and visible to the public at the time of the commission of the offense.

If the act constituting criminal mischief involves, specifically, the placement graffiti, then the court is required to impose certain fine amounts in addition to any other penalty. For a first offense, the fine amount is not less than $250.00, for a second offense, the fine amount is not less than $500.00, and for a third or subsequent offense, the fine amount is not less than $1,000.00. Also, the accused person will be required to "perform at least 40 hours of community service and, if possible, perform at least 100 hours of community service than involves the removal of graffiti". Payment of restitution to the property owner, to cover the cost of the damages, will be imposed in all cases.

There are some important provisions relating to minors that you should also be aware of. If the minor, who has been found to have committed an act of criminal mischief, is eligible for a driver's license, the court shall direct the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to revoke or withhold the issuance of the minor's driver's license or driving privilege for not more than one year. If the privilege is already under suspension, the court shall direct the Department to extend the period of suspension by an additional period of not more than one year. If the minor is, by reason of age, ineligible to obtain a driver's license, the court shall direct the Department to withhold issuance of the minor's driver's license for not more than one year after the date on which he or she would otherwise have become eligible. The statute authorizes a reduction in the period of suspension by one day for each hour of community service performed.

At any level, criminal mischief is a serious offense with some potentially hefty penalties. This is particularly the case for repeat and minor offenders. If you have been charged with criminal mischief, you should talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area as soon as possible.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donald J. Kilfin, The Kilfin Law Firm, P.C.
Donald J. Kilfin is a former Pinellas county state prosecutor. He owns and operates The Kilfin Law Firm, P.C., a Tampa Bay area DUI and criminal defense firm representing clients in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, New Port Richey, Dade City, and Bradenton.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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