The Florida state legislature takes the damage or defacement of property as criminal mischief (or vandalism) seriously as it leads to additional costs to the owners of the property, including the state. This criminal mischief with property damage includes graffiti as well as other damage to both real property and movable property. Our Criminal Lawyers in Fort Lauderdale have been defending these types of cases for years.
Prosecutor Must Prove
In order to obtain a conviction of criminal mischief or vandalism the prosecutor has to prove willful damage to the property. This means that the damage should have already occurred, but it is not necessary for the accused to have been caught in the act. Florida law permits the conviction of those whose vandalism or graffiti acts have been witnessed by others or recorded on surveillance cameras.
The actual penalty for a conviction of criminal mischief, vandalism, or graffiti depends on the value of the property damaged or defaced. For this purpose if property belonging to several persons was defaced in the same act, the court will take the total value into consideration.
If the value of the property damaged in criminal mischief is less than $200, the conviction is for a second degree misdemeanor. This can lead to imprisonment of not more than 60 days or a fine of $500.
If the value of the damaged property is between $200 and $1,000, then it is considered a first degree offense. This can lead to imprisonment of up to a year or a fine of $1,000.
If the damage to the property exceeds $1,000 or causes interruption in public services that takes more than $1,000 to restore, the accused faces a third degree felony conviction.
This means that the convicted person can be imprisoned for up to five years or asked to pay a fine of $5,000.
Prior Convictions for Vandalism
Those people who have prior convictions for criminal mischief with property damage and vandalism can be charged with a third degree felony even if the value of the property damaged is less than $1,000.
Similarly, any person who is accused of criminal mischief and damage of a place of worship or religious object faces a conviction of third degree felony.
Those people accused of damaging telephone and other communication equipment that carry a warning of the stricter penalty for damaging them can be convicted of a third degree felony in Florida.
Under Florida law those convicted of criminal mischief with property damage can also be required to pay damages apart from the fine. Additionally, those convicted of graffiti will have to pay a fine apart from the criminal penalty. This has been fixed at more than $250 for a first offense, more than $500 for a second offense, and more than $1,000 for a third or subsequent offence.
Apart from the imprisonment or fine, a graffiti offence conviction requires the accused to perform at least 40 hours of community service removing graffiti.
Florida law deals strictly with minors indulging in criminal mischief with property damage. Apart from the minor, their parents or guardians are also liable to pay the fine. In case the minor is unable to pay the fine, the court can decide to suspend their driving license or delay its issuance by a year. Those minors who need to obtain the driving license or the driving privileges restored can do so by performing one hour of community service for every day of which the license has been suspended.
Florida law has strict provisions to deter criminal mischief with property damage. This has been done in order to protect both real and movable property. The penalties include imprisonment, fine, damages, and community service.