Criminal mischief is a relatively straightforward crime in Florida. If you break or damage something that is not yours, you’ve committed the crime of criminal mischief.
As with most things in the law, it is a little more nuanced than that, but the prior sentence gives you the overall gist of the crime.
Depending on the amount of damages, criminal mischief can be a felony. Fla. Stat. 806.13 lays out when this can occur. When someone willfully and maliciously injures or damages the property of another, and the damage is:
Criminal mischief can also be a felony if the damage is greater than $200 and the damage is done to a place of worship or if the person has a prior criminal mischief conviction.
The criminal mischief statute also encompasses acts of vandalism such as the placement of graffiti. In addition to the penalties referenced above, if the criminal mischief was related to graffiti, there are mandatory fines of $250, $500, and $1,000 for a first, second, and third offense, respectively. Furthermore, at least 40 hours of community service must be performed and, when possible, 100 hours of community service directed towards the removal of graffiti.
Lastly, if a minor commits criminal mischief by the placement of graffiti, he or she will have his driver’s license suspended or withheld for at least one year from the date of conviction.
Should you take your case to trial, the state will have to prove that you willfully and maliciously damaged or injured the property of another and the amount of those damages. The first part is normally proved by evidence from a witness who saw the person charged committing the act of vandalism.
However, the amount of damages generally requires more than the best guess of the property owner as to the amount of damage to the property. In Sanchez v. State, 44 Fla. L. Weekly D1185 (Fla. 2d DCA 2019), Sanchez had allegedly damaged a commercial door through which he hoped to gain access to burglarize the building. The owner testified that he “guessed” it would cost between $1,500 and $2,000 to replace the door. Defense counsel moved for a judgment of acquittal based on this testimony. The judge, out of Polk County, denied this motion and the jury ultimately convicted Sanchez of first-degree misdemeanor criminal mischief (he wasn’t charged with a felony for some unknown reason).
The appellate court reversed this conviction and remanded the matter to the trial court for the entry of a conviction of second-degree misdemeanor criminal mischief because the evidence of damages was insufficient. The court held:
“The manager’s “guess” concerning the cost to replace a door that will not be replaced does not constitute competent evidence of the value of the damage to the door. Her testimony is not based on the actual cost to replace the door but instead is based solely on some type of “life experience” that she may have. In the absence of any evidence of the actual cost to repair the damage to the door, the trial court should have granted Sanchez’s motion for judgment of acquittal as to the charge of first-degree misdemeanor criminal mischief and should have entered a conviction for only second-degree misdemeanor criminal mischief.” Sanchez v. State.
The Bantner Firm has the experience, knowledge, and ability to help you with your criminal mischief charge. Attorney Adam Bantner is board certified by the Florida Bar in Criminal Trial Law. Call today at 813.397.3965 for your free consultation.
We pray you never need us, but we’re here for you when you do!