Criminal Mischief, as outlined by Florida Statute 806.13, is the willful and malicious damage to another person’s property. This can include actions from graffiti and vandalism, to intentionally breaking a window of a home or car.What is Criminal Mischief?
Any damage – even minor damage – can result in a charge of criminal mischief; however, there are two words that are important to understand when faced with this charge: willful and malicious.
Willful means “intentionally, knowingly, or purposefully” [Florida Jury Instructions §806.13(1)-(2)]. Not all actions resulting in damages constitute “criminal mischief” – such as a car accident, or accidentally hitting a ball through someone’s window. Rather, the damage done must have been caused with some sort of intent or knowledge of the person committing the act that caused the damage.
Malicious means “wrongfully, intentionally, without legal justification or excuse, and with the knowledge that injury or damage will be caused to another person or the property of another person” [Florida Jury Instructions §806.13(1)-(2)]. Aside from causing the damage on purpose, the damage must also be caused without a legal justification. For example, a person who breaks a car window because a child is locked in the back seat does not commit criminal mischief, but a person who throws a rock into a full parking lot (regardless of whether or not the person intended to hit any particular vehicle) does commit the offense.
In addition, criminal mischief carries several different degrees – or level of severity – of the crime. The degree varies based on the amount of the damage, location of damage, or item damaged. Degrees vary from a second degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony.
Second Degree Misdemeanor – If the amount of damage is $200 or less. Note that there is no minimum dollar amount for a criminal mischief charge. Even if the damage amounts to $1, you can be charged [s. (1)(b)1]. Punishable by up to 60 days in jail, 6 months of probation, and a fine of $500.
First Degree Misdemeanor – If the amount of damage is between $200 and $1,000 [s. (1)(b)2]. Punishable by up to 12 months in jail, 12 months of probation, and a fine of $1,000.
Third Degree Felony – If the amount of damage is $1,000 or more, or if the damage interrupts a business or public operation [s. (1)(b)3]. Additionally, having a previous conviction of criminal mischief results in a felony classification [s. (1)(b)4], as does damaging a religious building [s. (2)], public telephone [s. (3)], or sexual predator detention or commitment facility [s. (4)]. Punishable by up to 5 years in jail, 5 years of probation, and a charge of $5,000.
As with all criminal cases, the State has the burden of proving every element of the charge beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt. According to the Florida Jury Instructions for §806.13(1)-(2), the State must prove:
- The Defendant injured or damaged real or personal property
- The property injured or damaged belonged to another person
- The injury or damage was done willfully and maliciously
- The amount of the damage and, when applicable, the location of the damage or item damaged
The State must prove all four of these elements; it is not enough for them to only prove that a piece of property was damaged, nor is it enough for them to prove that the damage was done only willfully. In order to get a conviction of criminal mischief, every single elements of the charge must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This is where hiring an experience criminal defense attorney provides you with the upmost benefit. It is the job of a defense attorney to show that the State’s evidence is inadequate for proving that you committed a crime.The Thompson Law Approach
When you hire Matt Thompson as your attorney, you can be certain that you are hiring an experienced attorney who will fight diligently on your behalf. With all of our criminal cases, our first step is to discuss the case with our client and get his or her account of the incident. This allows us to make a determination of the unique circumstances of your case and decide what course of action is going to result in the best possible outcome for you. After analyzing the evidence from the State, we can go on the offensive. We will craft legal arguments for your case, attack the State’s evidentiary weaknesses, and negotiate with the state attorney to ensure that you are in the best situation throughout the life of your case. Even if your case does not go to trial, we prepare every case as though it will.
Matt Thompson has experience prosecuting and defending charges of criminal mischief. Call us today for your free case evaluation.