Criminal mischief (commonly known as vandalism) is rising in Florida. Law enforcement is cracking down on property crimes statewide. While many assume criminal mischief is a minor charge, the consequences can be drastic.
The severity of your criminal mischief charge will depend on the amount of damage you’re accused of charging. Under Florida law, you could face a second-degree misdemeanor or a third-degree felony. If you’re convicted, you could be incarcerated in a jail or a state prison. If you aren’t careful, your reputation could be damaged, be limited in job opportunities, or pay significant fines if convicted.
Reducing the Fallout of a Florida Vandalism Charge
No matter what kind of vandalism charge you’re facing, you are still innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law. There are steps you must take to protect yourself. Following them won’t guarantee your freedom, but you stand a better chance of reduced or dropped charges if you use these tips.
Contact a Property Crimes Defense Attorney
After being arrested for vandalism, seek an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. They can quickly intervene and prevent you from self-incrimination when speaking with investigators.
An attorney will thoroughly evaluate your case, explore every option for defense, and offer legal guidance throughout the process. With your future at stake, do not go it alone.
Stay Away From Social Media
Many people don’t realize the severity of vandalism charges and might accidentally incriminate themselves online. Take, for example, the viral TikTok “devious licks” trend banned in 2021. Students would post videos of themselves damaging school property, hoping to gain popularity on the social media platform. Instead of gaining popularity, they received multiple criminal charges and arrests.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when charged with criminal mischief in Florida is to post about it online. Prosecutors do not take vandalism cases lightly. Your tagged posts, direct messages, followers, likes, comments, and usernames can be admissible during the trial.
Tell your attorney immediately if there is anything online — including deleted or “private” posts—that could potentially hurt your defense. Refrain from using social media. Don’t talk about your charges with other people.
Exercise Your Rights
Prosecutors must prove every element of a criminal mischief charge beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury before you can be convicted. The prosecution will thoroughly investigate your vandalism offense, especially if you’ve been charged with a felony. Investigators will gather as much evidence as they can to use against you. They might file multiple charges, depending on the circumstances of your case.
If the police question you about your relation to a vandalism charge, it is crucial that you exercise your right to avoid self-incrimination. Don’t respond or react to anything they say, even if their questions seem harmless. The only answer you need to provide is your name.
Remember: they are not on your side. Remain silent and state that you would like an attorney present. Invoking your rights during the investigation can protect you from serious repercussions.
Consider Your Defense Options
Work alongside your attorney and provide as many details as possible so you can build a solid defense. For example, give your lawyer the contact information of anyone who can support your alibi. Your attorney can subpoena them. These individuals can testify on your behalf at trial.
There are several defenses you can have against criminal mischief accusations in Florida, including:
- You did not intentionally or willfully damage the property.
- The act was done out of necessity, in self-defense, or to protect others.
- You and the alleged victim jointly own the property.
- An eyewitness mistakenly identified you as the perpetrator.
- Police violated your Fourth Amendment rights during their investigation.
These defenses are not an exhaustive list. They may not apply to every situation. That’s why you need a lawyer who fully understands Florida vandalism laws and how they apply to your case.
Charged with Criminal Mischief? Call a Sarasota Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Contrary to what people may think, vandalism is a serious crime with costly penalties. If you’ve been charged with criminal mischief or another property crime in Florida, you must be fully prepared to protect your future and defend yourself.
An attorney can help you navigate through the criminal process and build a defense that works for you. Sarasota vandalism attorney Erika Valcarcel has represented countless clients facing property crime charges in Florida. She’s here to help you achieve the outcome you want and put the past behind you.View All Blogs