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Criminal Mischief Crimes

Criminal mischief involves one person willfully damaging property that belongs to another person. Criminal mischief often involves the placement of graffiti or other acts of vandalism. The penalties and punishments for criminal mischief depend on the value of the damage to the property, the type of property and whether the defendant has any prior convictions. 

If you were charged or arrested for criminal mischief then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. We represent men, women and juveniles charged with criminal mischief in Tampa, Hillsborough County, and the surrounding areas throughout Pinellas County, Polk County, Pasco County, and Hernando County, FL.

Call 813-250-0500 to discuss your case.


Jury Instructions for Criminal Mischief

The jury instructions for the crime of criminal mischief are contained in Section 12.4. Reading the jury instructions is one of the easiest ways to understand the elements of the offense. The instruction was originally adopted in 1981 and subsequently amended in 1992 and 2010. The jury instructions track the statutory language contained in Florida Statute § 806.13(1)-(2).

In order to prove the crime of Criminal Mischief, the prosecutor with the State Attorney's Office must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant injured or damaged real or personal property; 
  2. The property injured or damaged belonged to person alleged in the charging document; and
  3. The injury or damage was done willfully and maliciously.

Enhanced penalties apply if the damaged property was a church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship or any religious article contained therein.


Value of Damaged Property in Criminal Mischief Case

The second issue in a criminal mischief case is the value of the damage to the property. Under Florida Statute § 806.13(5) (a), the amount of the value of the damage to the property owned by separate persons, if the property was damaged during one scheme or course of conduct, may be aggregated in determining the total value. In all cases the maximum penalties and punishments depend on the value of the damage to the property.

The classifications of criminal mischief provide that: 

  • If the damage is valued at less than $200, then the charge is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine;
  • If the damage is between $200 and $1,000, then the charge is a first degree misdemeanor which is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine; or
  • If the damage is $1,000 or more then the charge is a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Prior Conviction for Criminal Mischief in Florida

Certain enhanced penalties apply if the if the defendant has previously been convicted of criminal mischief. Regardless of the amount of damage to the property, if the defendant has previously been convicted of criminal mischief, then any subsequent charge is a third degree felony.

In these case, the jury should first determine whether the defendant is guilty. If so, then in a bifurcated proceeding the historical fact of a previous criminal mischief conviction shall be determined beyond a reasonable doubt. It is error to inform the jury of a prior criminal mischief conviction. 

Therefore, if the information or indictment contains an allegation of one or more prior criminal mischief convictions, the trial court should not read the allegation or send the information or indictment into the jury room. State v. Harbaugh, 754 So. 2d 691 (Fla. 2000).


Criminal Mischief for Graffiti in Florida

If the criminal mischief charge involves the placement of graffiti then certain mandatory minimum fines are required. For a first conviction the fine is at least $250. For a second conviction the mandatory minimum fine is at least $500.

For a third or subsequent conviction the minimum mandatory fine is at least $1,000. Criminal mischief charges are common in juvenile court when young people are charged with a crime.


Finding a Criminal Mischief Attorney in Tampa, FL

If you were charged with criminal mischief of another type of property crime in Hillsborough County or a surrounding area then call us to discuss the case. Call our criminal defense attorneys in Tampa at 813-250-0500.


This article was last updated by on Wednesday, December 14, 2016.