SARASOTA CRIMINAL MISCHIEF ATTORNEY
Criminal mischief is the intentional destruction of the property of another with malice. It is basically another term for vandalism. There are several categories of misdemeanor criminal mischief and felony criminal mischief, depending on the monetary damage sustained by the property.
Categories of Criminal Mischief
Second Degree Misdemeanor Criminal Mischief
If the damage to the property is $200 or less, it is a misdemeanor of the second degree punishable by up to 60 days county jail.
First Degree Misdemeanor Criminal Mischief
If the damage to the property is greater than $200 but less than $1,000, it is a misdemeanor of the first degree punishable by up to 12 months in the county jail.
Third degree Felony Criminal Mischief
If the damage is $1,000 or greater, it is a felony of the third degree punishable by up to 5 years prison.
Defenses to Criminal Mischief
Lack of Malice
To be found guilty of criminal mischief in Florida, there must be evidence that the person acted with malice, or acted maliciously. "maliciously," means wrongfully, intentionally, without legal justification or excuse and with the knowledge that the damage will or may be caused to the property of another person.
For instance, knocking on a window to get someone’s attention inside is not a malicious action. If the window happens to break the person should not be charged with criminal mischief unless there is some other evidence that the person acted maliciously (such as threatening to break the window).
Lack of Intent
If something was damaged on mistake than it was not done intentionally. In order to convict a person, the state must have evidence that the person had specific intent to damage the property of another.
For instance, if a person’s intent is to get out of a locked room, and in the process, they break a door handle, it cannot be said that they committed criminal mischief because their intent was to leave the room, not break the door.
Can the State Prove the Amount of the Damage?
Sometimes the police will charge a higher level of criminal mischief than the state is later able to prove. For instance, the police arrive on scene and an angry victim alleges that her damaged camera was worth $1100. The cop takes her word for it and then charges the defendant with third-degree felony criminal mischief (because the alleged damage was over $1000).
Later, through the investigation of the defense, it is determined that the actual value of the camera is $100 and the state is unable to contradict this. It will then be likely that the state will be forced to reduce the charges from a third-degree felony to a second-degree misdemeanor which would be a significant victory for the defendant.