If you have been charged with or are being investigated for the crime of criminal mischief in Pinellas County, you will likely have questions regarding what to do next. My office is in St. Petersburg and I have handled numerous criminal mischief cases over the years. While most involve young people making poor choices, I also have seen many cases involving the destruction of property during an argument. It has been my experience that one of the most common types of property damage is to cars. I have represented many people who have been charged with criminal mischief after kicking a car or hitting a car with some type of object during a dispute. Most incidents were provoked or there is some shared portion of the blame. While these examples may sound unlikely, you would be surprised at what happens during the heat of the battle. Regardless, criminal mischief charges can easily become felonies, so they need to be taken seriously. This article is an attempt to explain many of the issues that you may encounter during a criminal mischief charge in Pinellas County, Florida.
Florida Law on Criminal Mischief Charges
Criminal mischief charges are controlled by Florida Statute 806.13. In layman’s terms, if you intentionally vandalize or damage someone else’s property, you can be charged with criminal mischief.
What Are the Penalties for Criminal Mischief?
The penalty for criminal mischief is based on the amount of damage that was caused to the property.
- Property damage less than $200: Criminal mischief causing less than $200 in damage is the least severe charge. It is considered a second-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 60 days in the Pinellas County Jail, up to 6 months of probation and up to $500 in fines. As long as restitution is repaid, most minor criminal mischief charges end up with a simple fine or even a diversion program.
- Property damage between $200 and $1000: Criminal mischief causing between $200 and $1000 in damage is the intermediate level charge. It is considered a first-degree misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to 12 months in the Pinellas County Jail, up to 1 year of probation and up to $1000 in fines. Probation and jail are more likely for this type of charge. However, if restitution is paid in full quickly, a fine and diversion program are still options.
- Property damage over $1000: Criminal mischief causing over $1000 of damage is the most severe charge available. It is considered a third-degree felony. It is punishable by up to 5 years in Florida State Prison, up to 5 years of probation and up to $5000 in fines. While these maximum penalties sound intimidating, very few people actually go to prison for the crime of criminal mischief. However, jail and long term probation are much more likely with felony charges. Like the misdemeanor charges, if restitution is paid in full quickly, the consequences become much less severe.
How Much Is Bond for Criminal Mischief?
Bond for criminal mischief charges are based on a Uniform Bond Schedule decided by the courts specifically for Pinellas County and used at the Pinellas County Jail. The bond recommendations are as follows:
|3rd Degree Felony Criminal Mischief
|1st Degree Misdemeanor Criminal Mischief
|2nd Degree Misdemeanor Criminal Mischief
What Are the Defenses to a Criminal Mischief Charge?
One of the most used defenses is to attack the value of the damage alleged in a criminal mischief case. For example, if the damage was to a car, there might have been an estimate used that put the damage over $1,000. You are entitled to get a different estimate to contradict that allegation. In fact, I have been successful in offering someone to do repairs for less than $1,000 in the past to get the charges reduced to a misdemeanor.
Another common defense is that the damage was not done intentionally. This can occur when there is an argument. If there was a fight and something was damaged in the process, the lack of intent can be used as a defense. Another example is when someone throws something, misses and breaks something. It is a potential defense that you did not intend to break what actually wound up broken. Another defense is that the property actually did not belong to the person who alleges that he/she is the victim.
Criminal Defense Attorney to Handle Criminal Mischief Charges
If you are in a position where you are under investigation or have already been arrested for criminal mischief in Pinellas County, I am happy to speak to you about the situation. There are many ways to avoid convictions, jail, and repercussions to your record. I have had vast success in handling these types of cases before. Consultations are always free of charge, so there is no risk to reach out.