While you might assume it’s a minor offense, damaging someone else’s property is a serious crime in Florida. Under state laws, vandalism is referred to as “criminal mischief.” If convicted, penalties can range from hours of community service to years in prison. 

Even if you believe your actions were justified or inoffensive, Florida prosecutors are often tough on property crime cases. It’s likely they will seek the maximum punishment. It is crucial that you find an experienced criminal mischief defense attorney to fight these charges. You need representation to help you avoid the disruption of a serious conviction.  

Contact Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. at (941) 363-7900 to schedule a free initial consultation about your Sarasota criminal mischief case. 

Criminal Mischief Laws in Florida

According to Section 806.13 of the Florida Statutes, an individual commits criminal mischief if they “willfully and maliciously” damage or injure someone else’s property. Criminal mischief might include drawing graffiti on a building, slashing car tires, breaking windows, or other destructive acts. 

Understanding more about Florida’s criminal mischief laws will lay a solid foundation for your defense. Attorney Erika Valcarcel can inform you, so you are empowered. She can let you know the best defense against your charges. 

Penalties for Criminal Mischief

In Florida, the penalties for a criminal mischief conviction depend on the circumstances of your case. The consequences you face for a criminal mischief charge typically increase with the cost of property damage achieved. 

Here are the standard penalties for vandalism based on the value of damaged property: 

  • If the property damage is $200 or less: This is a second-degree misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of 0-60 days in jail and a maximum fine of $500. 
  • If the property damage is greater than $200, but less than $1,000: This is a first-degree misdemeanor. If convicted, you face up to one year in prison and a maximum fine of $1,000.  
  • If the property damage is $1,000 or more: This is a third-degree felony, with a sentence of up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.  

If you were a minor at the time of the offense, you may receive a lighter sentence. However, you may lose your driver’s license or your ability to obtain a license for up to one year. 

Aggravating Factors in Criminal Mischief Penalties

While the cost of property damage largely determines the penalties for criminal mischief, Florida courts may increase your penalties if the offense involved aggravating factors. These are circumstances that call for harsher punishments under Florida law. You could face steeper penalties if: 

  • You damaged any property belonging to a church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious group. 
  • You have prior convictions for criminal mischief. 
  • The property damage involved the placement of graffiti. 
  • The property damage occurred at a sexually violent predator detention or commitment facility. 

Aggravating factors can enhance a criminal mischief charge to a third-degree felony. To truly know what you’re facing, speak to a Florida property crimes defense attorney. Erika Valcarcel can thoroughly evaluate your vandalism case and effectively fight to reduce the penalties you face. 

Common Defenses in a Florida Vandalism Case

Criminal mischief charges in Sarasota County can jeopardize your rights, reputation, and future. You must act fast. Secure the help of an experienced vandalism defense attorney who has handled cases similar to yours with impressive results. 

Erika Valcarcel will work with you to build a strong defense against your charges. She’ll get to know you as an individual so she can truly advocate for your best interests in and out of the courtroom. There is significant value in having an attorney on your side, especially when you’re facing serious charges. 

A few examples of common defenses against criminal mischief in Florida include: 

  • You did not intend to damage the property. 
  • The property is jointly owned by you and the alleged victim. 
  • There is a lack of evidence connecting you to the crime. 
  • You have been misidentified and wrongfully accused as the perpetrator. 
  • The property was damaged in another manner, i.e. severe weather.
  • The damage was done to protect yourself or others from harm (self-defense).
  • Police misconduct occurred during your arrest or investigation. 

Criminal Mischief FAQs

What are the penalties for graffiti in Florida?

Criminal mischief laws in Florida have distinct penalties for the placement of graffiti. Essentially, if your vandalism case involved defacing property with graffiti, you will face punishment for the graffiti itself in addition to other criminal mischief charges. You will also face increased penalties for any prior convictions. 

  • For a first graffiti conviction: You will be fined at least $250 and required to perform community service. 
  • For a second graffiti conviction: You will be fined at least $500 and required to perform community service. 
  • For a third or subsequent graffiti conviction: You will be fined at least $1,000 and required to perform community service. 

For every conviction, you must serve at least 40 hours of community service and, if possible, at least 100 hours of community service involving the removal of graffiti.  

What do prosecutors need to prove in a criminal mischief case?

The key elements of a criminal mischief charge in Florida are that you intended to commit the offense, you damaged real or personal property, and the property belonged to someone else. Prosecutors must prove these elements beyond reasonable doubt before you can be convicted. If your case does not meet these requirements, the charges against you will likely be dismissed. 

Even if prosecutors can prove every element of criminal mischief, our defense can undermine their case and still help get your charges reduced or dismissed. Additionally, vandalism defense attorney Erika Valcarcel can secure the evidence prosecutors have against you during the discovery process, and can help negotiate for a desirable outcome. 

Can criminal mischief charges be dropped?

Criminal mischief charges could possibly be dropped depending on your situation. However, it is important to remain realistic and consult with an attorney. If there is a lack of probable cause, your attorney may be able to convince prosecutors to drop your charges and dismiss the case. 

Your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea deal. This often requires you to admit some guilt, but your attorney can ensure the deal you’re offered is fair. Make sure to explore this option after you hire a lawyer. 

Contact a Sarasota Criminal Mischief Defense Attorney Today

If you’ve been charged with criminal mischief in Sarasota County, you likely never expected to face such harsh penalties. Florida property crime laws can be strict, but you still have plenty of options to defend yourself. With the help of a dedicated defense lawyer, you can preserve your future and move past the stress and uncertainty of a serious criminal charge. 

Sarasota criminal mischief defense attorney Erika Valcarcel is prepared to handle your case and help guide you through the other side of your vandalism charges. Her approach is both careful and aggressive—considering every possible angle to truly fight for her clients. You deserve relief from the burden of a criminal charge. Let our Sarasota, FL criminal defense firm help however we can. 

Contact Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer P.A. at (941) 363-7900 to schedule a free initial consultation.