What is considered criminal mischief in Florida? Florida’s criminal mischief statute is a law against vandalism, meant to punish those who damage property. The law mentions graffiti specifically but applies to all kinds of damage in many situations. While many cases are misdemeanors, criminal mischief charges in Florida can lead to felony charges punishable by prison time and steep fines. Never face criminal charges without talking to a lawyer. Call 407- 349-4211 for a free consultation with the expert Orlando criminal defense attorneys at the Rivas Law Firm.
The state is considering legislation that would increase the penalties for criminal mischief committed in the course of public demonstrations. Under the proposed Combating Violence,Disorder, and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act, defacing public property or breaking store windows during a protest could be charged as second or third-degree felonies.
And the governor is considering expanding Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law to include perceived potential acts of criminal mischief so that it could be legal to shoot someone if you believe they’re about to damage your storefront. Right now, though, the law is broad enough that Florida criminal mischief charges call for a vigorous defense.
What Does the Charge Criminal Mischief Mean?
The current statute is based on common law against “malicious mischief,” and the origin is significant. Florida Statute 806.13 states that “a person commits the offense of criminal mischief if he or she willfully and maliciously injures or damages by any means any real or personal property belonging to another…” So to charge you with breaking this law, a prosecutor must prove not only that you damaged property but that you meant to do it and that you did it with maliceor ill will. In other words, you intentionally wrecked somebody else’s stuff just because you hated them (and therefore their stuff). And that can be hard to prove.
For example, an appeals court threw out Criminal Mischief charges of a Florida man for breaking a clerk’s cell phone during a convenience store robbery. The court ruled that while the robber certainly acted with ill-will toward the clerk, this malice didn’t extend to the clerk’s phone. There were no hard feelings toward the phone itself; the robber didn’t mean to break it.
It’s an illustration of how an expert criminal defense attorney can analyze all the circumstances in your case to present your best criminal defense.
Florida Criminal Mischief Charges Defense
Can criminal mischief charges be dropped? Yes, and there are many ways in which an aggressive defense lawyer may be able to make that happen. For instance, whether you face felony or misdemeanor criminal mischief charges depends on the value of the property destroyed or the cost of the damage.
Take the case of a Florida man who was apparently having a bad day at the gaming tables and drove his Ford F-150 through the glass front doors of the Miccosukee Casino. Based on the cost of temporarily repairing the doors and their subsequent replacement, prosecutors charged the sore loser with felony criminal mischief. But the guy had a sharp lawyer who objected to presenting both costs. He claimed that the total would exceed the market value of the doors. The judge agreed, and the state presented its case without introducing any evidence regarding the value of the damaged property.
The jury convicted the man anyway, but an appeals court ultimately ordered the charge reduced to second-degree misdemeanor criminal mischief. The court pointed out that the state did not present any evidence to prove damage valued at $1,000 or more as the law requires for a felony conviction.
Criminal charges call for a vigorous and determined defense. A skilled and aggressive defense attorney knows that along with procedural expertise, diligence and persistence, legal battles often come down to words. The attorney who sees where prosecutors aren’t adhering to the letter of the law will use that to his client’s advantage.
If you are facing criminal charges in Florida, you’ll want the best criminal defense lawyer you can get. Consider the Orlando criminal defense attorneys at the Rivas Law Firm. Call 407- 349-4211 for a free consultation.