Vandalism is a serious crime in Florida. Although it is sometimes seen as a relatively harmless crime, acts of vandalism in Florida can cost thousands of dollars to repair and result in several years in prison. Here’s what you need to know if you find yourself charged with vandalism in Florida.
The act of vandalism traces its name back to antiquity. An ancient tribe of Germanic peoples called Vandals were one of several peoples to sack Rome in its later years, which they did under King Genseric in 455 A.D.
Though they were unlikely to have been any more or less destructive than any of the other groups to invade Rome, they were immortalized as so in John Dryden’s 1694 poem Till Goths, and Vandals, a rude Northern race, Did all the matchless Monuments deface. Shortly after, the term Vandalisme entered the French language to describe wanton destruction after the French Revolution, and the cognate “vandalism” was adopted into the English language not long after.
Florida penalizes acts of vandalism under its laws on criminal mischief. The elements of criminal mischief in Florida are:
- willfully and maliciously
- damaging the real or personal property
- of another.
Florida statute specifically includes the act of placing graffiti on the property of another.
Penalties for criminal mischief are principally determined by the value of the amount of damage inflicted on the property.
If the damage is $200 or less, a conviction of criminal mischief is a second degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
Should damage of the property be between $200 and $1,000, a conviction of criminal mischief is a first degree felony, which can result in up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
If the damage is over $1,000 or it interrupts business activities or public utilities and it costs $1,000 or more to repair, the conviction of criminal mischief is a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
In Florida, willfully and maliciously damaging an historical monument that costs more than $200 to repair is a third degree felony, punishable as above.
Restitution and Community Service
In addition to the above penalties, the state of Florida provides for the payment of restitution to the property’s owner. The statute also mandates a sentence of 40 hours of community service and at least 100 hours of community service that involves removal of graffiti if possible.
Florida law outlines an additional penalty for repeat convictions of criminal mischief. A first conviction results in an additional fine of $250, a second conviction leads to an additional fine of $500, and convictions subsequent to that are fined an additional $1,000.
Florida law has special provisions for minors who are convicted of criminal mischief. The court may order that the minor’s driver’s license not be issued for up to one year after they are eligible. In addition, the court may find that the minor’s parent or guardian are responsible for the payment of the fine as well.