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Florida Criminal Mischief Offenses and Their Penalties

Mischief conjures images of adolescents or teens defacing car windows with soap, or throwing toilet paper over stretches of trees in a park or on school property during Halloween. Criminal mischief, however, consists of acts of vandalism that damages private and public property and includes the placement of graffiti, despite some graffiti that many consider true artistic accomplishments.

All criminal offenses consist of elements, or certain acts, that must be proved by the prosecution or state by the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal mischief is found under 806.13 of the Florida Statutes. Its elements are:

  1. an act that willfully and maliciously
  2. injures or damages by any means
  3. any real or personal property belonging to another person or entity
  4. including but not limited to the placement of graffiti
  5. or other acts of vandalism

Element of Intent

The definition of “willfully or maliciously” seems to be self-evident but they mean, respectively, knowingly or intentionally and without legal justification or excuse.

Unlike other crimes that require specific intent to injure a person or damage property, this offense is one of general intent. All the prosecution needs to prove is that you committed an intentional and purposeful act with the knowledge that it could result in damage to property, and which resulted in such damage.

Element of Damage to Property

To successfully prosecute you, the state must prove that your malicious act actually damaged property. If you damage a vehicle that is already burned out and beyond repair or is not usable for spare parts, the prosecution would find it difficult to prove you damaged something that was already worthless.

Penalties and Sentencing for Criminal Mischief

Whether you commit a felony or a misdemeanor for violating Florida’s criminal mischief statute depends on the amount of damage inflicted:

  • If the damage was up to $200, you will be charged with a second degree misdemeanor with a possible jail sentence of up to 60 days
  • If the damage was between $201 and up to $999, you may be charged with a first degree misdemeanor and a jail sentence of up to one year and/or a fine of no more than $1,000
  • If the damages exceed $1,000, you face a third degree felony and a maximum prison sentence of 5 years and/or a fine up to $5,000
  • For any conviction pertaining to the placement of graffiti, you are required to pay a fine unless deemed indigent or otherwise unable to pay. You must also perform a minimum of 40 hours of community service and, if possible, at least 100 hours of community service that involves the removal of graffiti
  • Third degree felony mischief charges will be brought if the vandalism was to a place of worship and the damage exceeded $200
  • Felony mischief is also charged for damage to a public telephone or its wires, antennae, cables or other fixtures regardless of the damage amount, so long as a notice of the penalties was conspicuously posted and visible to the public at the time the offense was committed

The court will impose a fine for the placement of graffiti as follows unless it determines you are unable to pay:

  • Not less than $250 for a first conviction
  • Not less than $500 for a second conviction
  • Not less than $1,000 for a third conviction

Minors and Criminal Mischief Offenses

Minors who commit vandalism or paint or draw graffiti, usually on public buildings or on the sides of trains, on public walkways or private property, are subject to certain civil penalties. Under Florida law, the parents of the minor who commits an act of graffiti is liable along with the minor for the fine indicated herein, unless the court finds that the minor or parents are indigent or are otherwise unable to pay the fine.

If the minor is eligible for a driver’s license, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will revoke or suspend the minor’s driver’s license for up to one year.  When the minor does become eligible for a driver’s license, he or she must wait for up to one year after the date on which the minor becomes eligible.

A minor who needs a driver’s license for employment or medical purposes will be ordered to perform community service and have the suspension or revocation period reduced by one day for each hour of service performed. A minor can also elect to have the license revocation or suspension period reduced by the same rate of service.

For minors, the juvenile court could also order probation and require the minor to not commit any further acts of vandalism or graffiti, to attend school or remain employed or any other condition in return for dismissing the charge. If a condition is violated, the juvenile might be ordered to detention. In aggravated cases, a minor faces possible felony charges.