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Any person who is accused of destroying or defacing the property of another in Florida faces the possibility of being charged with criminal mischief. The property does not have to belong to an actual person, as government property or company property are often the subject of criminal mischief charges. In addition, the damage does not have to be permanent, which is typically the case with charges involving graffiti. Criminal mischief is Florida’s legal name for vandalism, and can range from a second-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony depending on the facts of the case. The severity of the charges depends on the cost of the damage and the specific property that was targeted. if you have been charged or are being investigated for criminal mischief contact Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation. Benjamin is a South Florida criminal defense lawyer who specializes in criminal mischief cases, and has successfully defended hundreds of clients in property offenses. He is available 7 days a week to meet in his Fort Lauderdale or West Palm locations, and is also happy to discuss the case over the phone anytime at (954) 543-0305. Benjamin represents adult and juvenile clients in Miami-Dade County, Broward County and Palm Beach County, and is also an experienced criminal lawyer in the Treasure Coast jurisdictions of Martin County and St. Lucie County. Call Benjamin today to find out how he can fight to have your charges dropped or reduced.
All criminal mischief charges require an element of malice, which means the state must prove a willful and malicious intent. Accidentally causing damage will not qualify, nor will an intentional act that was not done with malice. The most common type of vandalism that qualifies as criminal mischief is graffiti, but literally any type of malicious act including burning, smashing or running over with a vehicle is included. Graffiti violations can also carry fines of up to $1,000 in addition to other penalties. The least serious version of criminal mischief is causing less than $200 worth of damage to property, which is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail. If the damage is between $200 and $1,000 the charge will be elevated to a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year. Vandalism that results in damage costing over $1,000 is classified as felony criminal mischief with a five-year maximum penalty. Damaging, defacing or removing works of art from a public building has the same dollar value dependent penalties as regular criminal mischief.
The cost to repair the damage is not the only factor in determining value, as the cost of disruption of a business could also be a factor. If a defendant is charged with interrupting the service of a phone, power or cable company, the labor and supplies expended to repair the outage will be factored in to the amount of damages. The law provides other enhancements that in some cases will push a misdemeanor to a felony. For example, vandalizing a church, synagogue or other place of worship is classified as a third-degree felony if the damage is over $200. Anyone with a prior conviction for criminal mischief may also be charged with a felony for a second offense. What often times starts out as a prank could turn into a prosecution for a serious criminal charge, which can result in jail time or the possibility of a permanent felony conviction. Do not face these charges without an experienced South Florida criminal mischief lawyer in your corner.
Florida law provides enhanced penalties for juveniles who are charged with criminal mischief. A juvenile may be required to complete up to 100 hours of community service and may face a driver’s license suspension or revocation of up to 1 year. In addition, the parent of a juvenile may be held liable for damage the juvenile caused. Benjamin is a skilled Florida juvenile criminal defense attorney who specializes in defending teenagers who are charged with criminal mischief and other offenses. He understands the importance of preserving a juvenile’s record, and knows how to relate to his juvenile clients. He also strives to keep the juvenile’s family informed of the progress of the case each step of the way. Contact Benjamin today for a free consultation about your case.