Teenagers are known for committing criminal acts that they later regret. Legally, these actions can have far-reaching consequences that could affect future employment or educational prospects. A conviction for the crime of vandalism, known in Florida as “criminal mischief,” is one such scenario. Contacting an attorney who has experience working with juveniles charged with violating Florida law can make the difference between a conviction and a dismissal.Vandalism
In Florida, a person commits the crime of vandalism or “ criminal mischief” if the following elements are fulfilled:
- The defendant damaged or injured real or personal property;
- The property belonged to the alleged victim; and
- The injury or damage was done maliciously or wilfully.
Injury or damage can include acts of:
- Defacement; or
- Other destructive acts.
Criminal mischief or vandalism is considered a “general intent” crime. This means that, in order to satisfy the intent element of the crime, a person’s actions must be willful or intentional, and the person must be aware that the actions may cause damage to persons or property. The statute does not require that the act be done with the specific intent to damage the property.Graffiti Fines
If a criminal mischief offense includes graffiti, the defendant’s sentence will include required community service, ranging from between 40 to 100 hours. The sentence also includes the mandatory payment of a minimum fine of:
- $250 for a first conviction;
- $500 for a second conviction; and
- $1,000 for a third or subsequent conviction.
The amount of damage caused to the property will in large part dictate whether the crime is treated as a felony or a misdemeanor. Furthermore, if the properties of multiple individuals are damaged due to the same course of conduct, the value of the property can be aggregated to determine the level of the offense. When the damage is valued at:
- $200 or less, the offense is a second-degree misdemeanor;
- Greater than $200, but less than $1,000, it is a first-degree misdemeanor; and
- Over $1,000, the charge is a third-degree felony.
If the defendant already has a conviction for criminal mischief, a subsequent offense in which the value of the property damage is under $1,000 is a third-degree felony. These types of crimes are serious and can mean a sentence of up to five years imprisonment and a fine of $5,000.Penalties for Minors
In the event that the property damage is caused by a minor, the minor’s parents (along with the minor) will be liable for the payment of any fines. The court can also order the revocation or withholding of a driver’s license for eligible teens.Defenses
Possible defenses to a charge of criminal mischief include:
- Lack of intent;
- Legal justification; and
Convictions for offenses like vandalism can have severe repercussions in Florida, even for juveniles. If you have been arrested for vandalism, it is essential to retain an attorney to help you present the best defense possible in your case. Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free consultation.