Vandalism in Florida is also known as criminal mischief. It applies to situations in which somebody intentionally and maliciously damages someone else's property. An example is keying a car owned by another person and kicking dents into it. The penalties for vandalism depend primarily on the amount of property the defendant is alleged to have caused. If you are charged with criminal mischief, a West Palm Beach vandalism lawyer can help you fight the charges.Penalties and Defenses for Criminal Mischief
A Florida prosecutor must prove these three elements beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a defendant of vandalism:
- The defendant injured or damaged property
- The injured or damaged property belonged to the victim identified by the prosecution.
- The injury was done willfully and maliciously.
The third element can be difficult for the prosecution to prove because it involves the defendant’s mental state. If a prosecutor proves these three elements, the court will sentence the defendant based on the value of the damaged or injured property.
Criminal mischief that results in less than $200 in damages is usually charged as a second-degree misdemeanor. The judge may sentence a convicted defendant to 60 days in jail with up to six months of probation and up to $500 in fines. Criminal mischief that results in between $200 and $1,000 in damages is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. The judge can impose a combination of penalties, including up to 12 months of jail time, up to 12 months of probation, and up to $1,000 in fines.
Although vandalism often involves property of low value, any vandalism resulting in over $1,000 worth of damages is charged as a third-degree felony. As a felony, it is taken more seriously. It is assigned a Level 2 offense severity ranking. The judge may sentence a defendant to up to five years in jail, up to five years of probation, and up to $5,000 in fines.
A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can assert a number of standard defenses involving issues such as the truthfulness of witnesses or the failure of police to follow proper protocol. However, there are also several specific defenses that may be worth exploring depending on the specific facts of your case. Your attorney might argue that the property was damaged unintentionally during another criminal act. If someone tries to hit another person with a baseball bat but instead hits the window of their car, for example, that person did not intend to hit the window. The charge of vandalism will not be successful in that case, although an attempted assault charge might be.Consult a West Palm Beach Vandalism Lawyer
An experienced Palm Beach Gardens criminal defense lawyer can make a huge difference to the outcome of your case. I use 30 years of experience, five of which were spent in the prosecutor's office, to build the strongest possible defense on your behalf. I offer clients consultations at two offices. One is located in Palm Beach Gardens, near I-95 and PGA Boulevard, and the other office is located in West Palm Beach. Schedule a free initial consultation by calling 561-533-1221, or contact me through my online form. Both offices accept credit cards.