Criminal mischief involves the willful and unlawful destruction of property. However, it is a lesser charge than arson, which involves the destruction via fire or explosion. Unlike arson, criminal mischief is often a misdemeanor offense, although depending on the circumstances, it can sometimes be elevated to a felony, usually based on the cost of the repair.
If you are found guilty of criminal mischief, then you will be charged under Florida Statute 806.13. Criminal mischief is committed against someone else’s property, either ‘real property’ such as homes and buildings or ‘personal property’ such as boats and cars. Common examples include broken windows, graffiti, and any other kind of damage.
If you are facing an accusation of criminal mischief in Clearwater or anywhere else in Florida, then get in touch with The Law Place today. With over 75 years of combined experience, we will do everything in our power to have your charges dismissed or reduced.
Is Criminal Mischief a Misdemeanor or a Felony Offence?
In Florida, criminal mischief is a second-degree misdemeanor if the damage to the property is $200 in value or less. A misdemeanor of the second degree is punishable by up to sixty days in county jail, as well as up to six months of probation, although the overall sentence cannot exceed six months.
If the damage to the property exceeds $200 but is under $1000, then the offense will be classified as a first-degree misdemeanor. A misdemeanor of the first degree is punishable by up to one year in county jail and up to one year of probation; again, the overall sentence cannot exceed one year.
If damage to the property exceeds $1000, then the offense constitutes a third-degree felony. A felony of the third degree is punishable by up to five years in the Florida Department of Corrections prison. However, Florida uses a scoring system to determine appropriate penalties, and criminal mischief does not score highly. Therefore, prison is usually only given if other factors are at play, such as if the accused has a history of similar offenses.
The accused could also face a third-degree felony for criminal mischief if they have prior convictions for criminal mischief, regardless of the extent of the damage. This is also true if the damage was to a place of religious significance.
Whatever the circumstances of your case, it is always a good idea to speak to a criminal defense lawyer in Clearwater as soon as possible. The sooner you hire a skilled attorney, the quicker they can get to work investigating your case, and the better chance you have at a successful outcome. In some situations, they may be able to have your case dropped altogether, or they may be able to have a felony charge lessened to a misdemeanor.
What Other Factors May Complicate My Criminal Mischief Charge?
Outside of the value to the damage of the property, there are some other aspects that can affect your criminal charge.
The following instances of criminal mischief could result in a third-degree felony charge:
- The damage to the property resulted in the interruption of a business or public service, which resulted in over $1000 in supplies and/or labor to rectify.
- The damage was committed against a sexually violent predator detention facility or commitment facility.
- The damages caused were worth over $200 and were committed against a church or some other place of worship. The prosecution may also fight for this instance if there were one or more religious articles inside the building.
- A public payphone was damaged and then rendered inoperable, and there was a clear public warning against such offenses.
In addition to the charges and the fines associated with criminal mischief property damage, you will also be liable for the cost of restoring the damaged property to its original working condition.
Graffiti Offences in Clearwater, FL.
In recent years, the State of Florida has cracked down on graffiti offenses. Graffiti is a common type of criminal mischief, but it comes with additional penalties.
For a first offense, the court will give a minimum fine of $250, the second offense a minimum of $500, and any subsequent offense a minimum of $1,000.
Furthermore, if the defendant is a minor, then the court is required to suspend their driver’s license application for up to a year. However, they are able to reduce this time with community service.
How Do Graffiti Laws Apply to Minors in Clearwater?
The rules for a minor who has committed an act of graffiti are slightly different. For one, it will be the parent or guardian that is required to pay the fine.
In addition, the issuance of their driver’s license will be suspended for one year, which can then be reduced through community service.
In Florida, in order for the prosecution to prove that someone is guilty of criminal mischief, they must show beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant damaged the property.
- The property that was damaged belonged to a person.
- The damage was done willfully and maliciously.
If the prosecution cannot prove any of these three requirements, then the defendant can not be found guilty of criminal mischief. A Florida criminal defense lawyer need only cast doubt on one of these requirements for the charges to be dismissed. If the defendant is found guilty, then the appropriate penalties will also come into question. The prosecution will need to prove the value of the damage and where the crime was committed.
It is also worth considering the terms “willfully” and “maliciously” and how they can be proven in order for the prosecution to secure criminal charges. Willfully means that the property was damaged knowingly and intentionally. Maliciously means that the property was damaged in a wrongful way, without any legal justification. The defendant must have known that their actions would cause damage, and they must have had no reasonable excuse to act as they did.
These elements are open to interpretation, and therefore a quality criminal defense lawyer may be able to have your consequences minimized or your case dismissed by bringing any of these elements into doubt.
Defenses for Your Criminal Mischief Charge
Usually, people do not commit criminal mischief in the presence of witnesses. It is usually a crime of opportunity. Therefore, it can be difficult for the prosecution to establish a motive and proof of the identity of the perpetrator. If the prosecution does have evidence that could show the defendant to be guilty, then they must have followed the correct procedures to obtain it. If law enforcement or the prosecution did not follow the right procedures, then your Clearwater criminal defense attorney may be able to have the evidence thrown out.
Another common defense is lack of intent. For example, if someone kicked a football through a neighbors window, and there was no motive or witnesses, then a lack of intent would be a strong defense.
If the state can clearly prove that the defendant did commit the act, and had willful and malicious intent, then your criminal defense attorney may complete a separate estimate of the damage. If it can be shown that the extent of the damage does not meet the threshold for a felony charge, the state may lower the charge to a misdemeanor.
Depending on the accused’s criminal history, a diversion program could be available, or your criminal defense attorney may be able to work out a plea deal with the judge to withhold adjudication. In this situation, the defendant may escape a criminal record or receive a lesser conviction under certain circumstances.
Other possible defenses include:
- Was the damage to the property actually a result of the actions of the defendant?
- Was the property owned by both the alleged victim and the defendant?
- Was the property actually owned by anyone?
- Was the damage to the property willful? Or was it an accident?
- Could the alleged victim have caused the damage?
- Was there any legal justification for the actions of the defendant?
Can a Clearwater Criminal Mischief Charge Be Expunged?
Unfortunately, criminal convictions cannot be expunged in the State of Florida. This is true of both felony offenses and misdemeanors. This means that any conviction, no matter how small, will stay on your criminal record and affect your employment, education, and housing prospects.
However, in accordance with Florida Statute 943.0585, most arrest records can be expunged if the charges did not result in a conviction. If you are trialed for criminal mischief and are found not guilty, or if the charges against you are dismissed, then you can fight to have the arrest record erased.
Contact us if you would like help having your criminal record expunged. We can make sure you complete all of the paperwork correctly and will help you get your record expunged, usually within 7 months. As a result, most criminal background checks will not show that you ever had any charge brought against you.
What Makes The Law Place Different From Other Florida Law Firms?
When you face any criminal charge, you want to be confident that you have the best possible criminal defense. Even a minor case of graffiti can have big implications for your life if you are convicted. We believe that we can give you the best chance at a positive outcome for your case with our 75 years of combined experience and our dedication to continually developing our skills in and out of the courtroom. We will develop a defense strategy as a team so that you can benefit from our combined experience, and that strategy will be tailored to the audience who will hear it, whether jury or judge.
We will listen to your story and get an understanding of your case, and while we work as a team to review your case, you will also receive a dedicated attorney who will become your advocate. They will be there to guide you through the process. Most of our attorneys are AVVO rated 10.10, the highest rating possible. The score is given as a result of trial skills, awards, length of practice, client reviews, and associations.
Although we believe we are the best choice, we also understand the importance of you doing your own research and feeling confident in your decision. This can be difficult if you have no experience dealing with law firms or criminal defense attorneys. Therefore, here are some questions you should consider asking any law firm to gain an understanding of what they can do for you:
- How many jury trials have you represented clients in and won?
- Can you provide me with references from previous clients?
- What are your fees, and how will I pay?
- Have you handled similar cases to mine?
- Have you previously been successful at securing plea bargains?
Contact The Law Place Today
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you could be facing fines, a criminal record, probation, and even jail time. Therefore, you deserve to have the best possible defense in order to minimize the potential consequences to your life.
At The Law Place, our team of criminal defense lawyers has over 75 years of combined experience in Florida law. We have helped our clients facing criminal mischief charges have their cases dropped, or where this has not been possible, we have been able to secure a more lenient sentence.
For a reputable and trustworthy criminal defense in Clearwater, contact The Law Place. We have a proven track record of providing a quality legal defense, which has changed the outcome for our clients and allowed them to keep moving forward with their lives.
We offer every potential client a free consultation so that we can establish what exactly we can do for your case and put some of their anxieties to rest.
We are under the strict confidentiality of the attorney-client relationship, which means that you can give us the full story without any worries. So, give us the power to do everything we can to help you. Our phone lines are open 24/7. Contact us today at (941) 444-4444.