Offense of Criminal Mischief
Vandalism, also called criminal mischief, occurs when an offender willfully and maliciously causes damage to property. Graffiti is the most commonly known type of vandalism, but it can also include breaking office building windows, slashing car tires, egging homes or cars, and much more. Depending on the value of the property damaged, you face up to a third degree felony and five years in prison. Do not let a felony or misdemeanor vandalism offense harm your record and leave a permanent blot on your name that employers will judge you for. An experienced Port St. Lucie criminal defense attorney can help you fight these charges.
Elements of Criminal Mischief
As per statute 806.13, criminal mischief must include the following elements:
- Damage or destruction to real or personal property;
- The damaged real or personal property belonged to the victim; and
- The damage was done willfully and maliciously.
- Willfully means intentionally, and maliciously means that the defendant knew that what they were doing would cause damage to the person’s property, and that they did not have a lawful reason to do so (such as in self defense for example).
Penalties For Criminal Mischief
In 2018, there were more than 6,000 arrests for the destruction of property, which includes criminal mischief as well as defacing public or private property, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Penalties for criminal mischief are based on the value of the property injured/damaged.
- Property damage under $200—Second degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of $500.
- Property damage greater than $200 but less than $1,000—First degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of $1,000; and
- Property damage greater than $1,000—Third degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000.
Professional Defense Against Vandalism Charges
There are a number of defenses against criminal mischief. An attorney with experience defending clients who have been charged with criminal mischief may use one or more of the following defenses:
- Police arrested the wrong person. The defendant was misidentified or just at the wrong place at the wrong time;
- The defendant damaged the property unintentionally;
- The defendant had a lawful reason to damage the property. For example, it would be legal to break a parked car’s window in order to save a dog from dying of heat stroke;
- The defendant’s actions were lacking malice;
- The property damage valuation is overblown (the prosecution is claiming that the damage is more than it is in reality);
- The property was jointly owned by the defendant and the “victim;” and
Reach Out to the Experienced Port St. Lucie Criminal Defense Team at Baginski Brandt & Brandt
If you are facing criminal mischief/vandalism charges, you need to call the Port St. Lucie criminal lawyers at Baginski Brandt & Brandt. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation as soon as you can. Call 772-466-0707.