Last Updated: January 20th, 2020 at 7:19 pm
Read Time: 6 Minutes
If you have been charged with criminal mischief in Florida, you must hire a property damage attorney immediately. You may be facing jail or prison time if convicted of the charge(s). In some instances, criminal mischief may be deemed a felony conviction, affecting you for the rest of your life.
Do not wait to go to court before hiring a lawyer. Do not wait to be summoned and do not wait to be placed in jail. Every moment you spend without a defense attorney is time spent by the prosecutor building a case against you. You need an experienced legal team, such as Weinstein Legal, working on your case as soon as possible to help reduce or dismiss your charges. You may lose your chance at securing a negotiated deal or dismissal of charges if you do not hire a lawyer immediately.
Don't let a criminal mischief charge cost you your freedom, future job opportunities, or future housing. As with any criminal conviction, the charge will appear on your public record. It will be accessible to anyone who runs a background check on you. Many places of employment and housing authorities have policies against hiring felons. These policies make it even more vital that you seek the help of a legal defense team as soon as possible.
What is Criminal Mischief?
Criminal mischief in Florida is defined as when a person "willfully and maliciously injures or damages by any means any real set of personal property belonging to another." There are many different types of criminal mischief. The full extent of the law can be found on the state of Florida's official government website under Title XLVI Chapter 806.13.
The term property includes a wide variety of items, not just buildings. A person may be charged with criminal mischief for damaging anything that belongs to someone other than themselves. Criminal mischief in Florida applies to city and state property and buildings.
If the damage is caused to another person's vehicle, land, or personal items with purposeful and malicious intent, you may be charged with criminal mischief.
Criminal Mischief Charges
The degree to which you are charged depends on the type of item damaged, the monetary value of the item or repair costs, and what kind of items were used to do the damage. For example, if a baseball bat is used to break windows, the charge will be different than if a can of spray paint is used to perform graffiti. The reason for this is that a baseball bat may be considered a weapon.
- Damage under $200 is considered a second-degree misdemeanor
- Damage greater than $200 but less than $1,000 is a first-degree misdemeanor
- Damage greater than $1,000, or damage that interrupts the operation of a business or any public service is a third-degree felony
- The charge is considered a felony if the individual has prior convictions
- Damage to a religious building is a third-degree felony
There are many more variances in charges depending on the act that can be viewed on the Florida Government website. Additionally, if a minor is convicted of such charges, their parents or legal guardians may be held financially responsible for repairs or reparations.
How Can a Criminal Mischief Charge be Proven in Court?
Since criminal mischief charges are heard in court before a judge, you must hire a lawyer to represent you in defense for criminal mischief. A criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate a plea deal or have your charges dropped or reduced before you even have to appear in court. Don't take your chances to see what happens before contacting a lawyer.
Criminal mischief can be proven in a variety of ways. First, the most damaging form of evidence is video surveillance footage. Many public places and private residences have cameras installed for this very reason. If you are caught on camera committing a crime, it is even more imperative that you hire a legal defense team to negotiate on your behalf.
Another way that property damage charges may be proven is through eye witness testimony. If a neighbor, passerby, or employee believes that they saw you committing criminal mischief, contacts the police and identifies you, it may be used against you in court. As eye witness testimonies are not always reliable, having an experienced defense team behind you to help dispute these claims is essential.
As a criminal charge, the burden of proof falls on the prosecutor. What this means is that it is their job to provide enough evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, proving you committed such crimes with malicious intent.
Intent means that a person committed such acts to cause damage. It was not an accident. The action may have been premeditated or spontaneous.
Penalties for Criminal Mischief
The penalties for property damage charges vary greatly based on the charge incurred. They range from fines, driver's license suspension, and probation, to prison time. The severity of penalties associated with different criminal mischief charges makes it vital to hire a criminal defense lawyer.
A lawyer may be able to speak with the prosecutor and have charges reduced, avoiding a court trial and potentially avoiding jail or prison time. If you think you are sure to face jail or prison time, it is even more essential that you hire a lawyer. A defense lawyer will aggressively defend your rights. Facing jail or prison time does not always have to be the case when you have adequate defense representation on your side.
Defense for Criminal Mischief in Florida
It is possible to have charges for criminal mischief in Florida reduced or dropped with the help of an experienced attorney. If an eye witness has accused you, your defense lawyer will likely ask you to provide the name and contact information of an individual who can provide an alibi. If you were somewhere else that had surveillance at the time the act took place, it could be corroborated via video footage that you were not there. Your lawyer can subpoena that footage. Having such video footage is nearly indisputable evidence that you did not commit the crime of which you are accused.
Other possible defenses against property damage charges include presenting the possibility that the act was an accident. As the law states that criminal mischief must be conducted willfully and intentionally, an accident does not qualify as a criminal act. Damage that took place during an argument or altercation may be considered an accident, again not qualifying as a criminal act.
Additionally, if you are accused of damaging property that you owned jointly with an accuser, you may be acquitted. If the property was damaged during an act of self-defense, the charges might also be significantly reduced or dropped depending on the circumstances.
Seeking Legal Representation
If you are charged with criminal mischief in Florida or receive property damage charges, there are a wide variety of defenses that can be used in court. However, you must seek aggressive legal representation who will pursue all possible routes to prove your innocence.
The longer you wait to seek representation, the more disadvantaged you will be, and you may lose your chance at negotiating a deal or dismissal. Do not let this happen to you. There is no need to let a criminal mischief offense permanently affect your life when there is a superior defense available to you.