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Criminal Mischief


West Palm Beach Criminal Mischief Attorney David W. Olson

Criminal mischief is the offense of willfully and maliciously damaging the real or personal property of another. Criminal mischief – often referred to as vandalism – includes graffiti and other conduct that results in the destruction or injury of property. A conviction for criminal mischief may potentially result in incarceration, fines, restitution, community service and other consequences. Various factors are taken into consideration when assessing penalties, including the dollar amount of the property damage, whether or not the accused has a previous criminal mischief conviction, the age of the accused, and more.

If you were charged with criminal mischief in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, Broward County, Miami-Dade County or elsewhere in South Florida, it is advisable to hire an experienced attorney with a proven record of accomplishment defending adult and juvenile clients charged with criminal mischief and other serious felonies and misdemeanors. Attorney Olson offers a complimentary consultation to discuss your case.

Florida Statute 806.13 – Criminal Mischief

Sec. 806.13, Criminal Mischief:

  • “(1)(a) A person commits the offense of criminal mischief if he or she willfully and maliciously injures or damages by any means any real or personal property belonging to another, including, but not limited to, the placement of graffiti thereon or other acts of vandalism thereto.”

The Prosecution Must Prove Three Elements for a Finding of Criminal Mischief

As per Florida Standard Jury Instructions 12.4, Sec. 806.13 (1) – (2), Fla. Stat., the prosecution must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt to meet its burden of proof:

  1. The defendant injured or damaged real or personal property
  2. The property injured or damaged belonged to the alleged owner
  3. The injury or damage was done willfully and maliciously

Note that the jury instructions are specific – unless all three elements are proven, the defendant cannot be convicted of criminal mischief.

Willfully and Maliciously – Legal Definitions

Willfully and maliciously are specifically defined in Florida’s Standard Jury Instructions. These words are of particular importance because they address the conduct of the actor. If the damage was not done willfully and maliciously the State will not have met its burden of proof.

  • Willfully means intentionally, knowingly, and purposely.
  • Maliciously means wrongfully, intentionally, without legal justification or excuse, and with the knowledge that injury or damage will or may be caused to another person or the property of another person.

Defending Against Charges of Criminal Mischief

There are numerous defenses to criminal mischief. They vary according to the case. Defenses may include:

  • Was the property actually damaged?
  • Who actually owned the property?
  • Did the accused have a legal interest in the property?
  • Did the accused actually damage the property? If so, can the prosecution prove this beyond a reasonable doubt?
  • If a public telephone was damaged, was a conspicuous notice of the potential penalties posted and visible?
  • If there was damage, was the damage intentional or accidental? Can the prosecution prove that the accused acted willfully and maliciously?
  • Were the accused’s acts justified?

Potential Penalties for Criminal Mischief

Criminal penalties vary according to the amount of damage and/or other factors when applicable:

  • $200 or less – 2nd degree misdemeanor: maximum 60 days jail, 6 months probation, $500 fine (or any combination)
  • More than $200 and less than $1,000 – 1st degree misdemeanor: maximum 12 months jail, 12 months probation, $1,000 fine (or any combination)
  • $1,000 or more:  3rd degree felony – 5 years prison, 5 years probation, $5,000 fine (or any combination)
  • Restitution – in addition to the fines and penalties above, restitution may be required to pay for damaged property

Enhanced or Aggravated Penalties

Any of the following will be punishable as a third degree felony:

  • If the defendant has one or more prior convictions for criminal mischief
  • Defacing a church, synagogue, mosque or other place of worship, or damaging any religious article from within the building – if the damage was $200 or more
  • Interruption or impairment of a business or public communication, transportation, water supply, gas or other public service that costs $1,000 to restore (labor and supplies)
  • Destroy or damage a public telephone or associated apparatus – notice of potential penalties must be conspicuously posted at the time of the offense

Destroy or damage a sexually violent predator detention or commitment facility

Property Owned by Separate Persons – Determining the Grade of the Offense

In order to determine the grade of the offense in instances when property is owned by different people, as long as the damage occurs in a singular incident – referred to as the same scheme or course of conduct – the damage may be aggregated. For example, if John destroys four mailboxes on the same street during one act, the total amount of damage will be calculated.

Graffiti – Fines and Penalties

If the accused is guilty of graffiti, potential fines and penalties are to be added to other fines and penalties:

  • First conviction – not less than $250
  • Second conviction – not less than $500
  • Third or subsequent conviction – not less than $1,000
  • Community service – 40 hours minimum, and “if possible, perform at least 100 hours of community service that involves the removal of graffiti.”

Minors Committing Delinquent Acts – Fines, Driving Privileges, Community Service

If a minor violates the statute, the minor and the parent or legal guardian are responsible for payment of the fine. If the individual is indigent or unable to pay, the court may decline to order payment of the fine.

If a minor is found guilty of placing graffiti on public or private property:

  • The minor’s driver’s license will be revoked for a maximum of one year
  • If already revoked, the court can extend the revocation period by one year
  • If not yet eligible to drive because of age, the court can extend issuance of driver’s license up to one year
  • Minor can perform community service and reduce revocation period 1 day for each hour of service
  • Community service will be performed cleaning graffiti from public property

West Palm Beach and South Florida Vandalism and Graffiti Defense Attorney David W. Olson

Attorney Olson will always pursue the most favorable outcome possible for each client. In fact, the great majority of Attorney Olson’s clients’ cases are resolved without going to trial. Many cases have been dismissed, particularly those of first time offenders. In numerous other cases he has been able to negotiate a favorable resolution with the prosecution. This has included favorable plea bargains, pretrial diversion programs, community service, probation and other alternatives to incarceration.

David Olson is aware that being charged with a crime can be extremely scary and intimidating. Indeed, he understands that your freedom may be at risk. It is his duty to zealously protect you and your legal rights. Attorney Olson has represented thousands of clients over a period of more than 30 years. There simply is no substitution for experience.

Attorney David Olson – Awards, Honors and Recognition

Attorney Olson has been recognized repeatedly by his peers:

Client Testimonial:

“… I met Mr. Olson and I was immediately put at ease. He was honest, genuine, and very easy to talk to, and after a few months the charges against me were dropped. I couldn’t have asked for a better lawyer…”

Recognition by a Member of Congress:

“You are an excellent role model, the kind of person to whom everyone can point with respect and admiration. Congratulations again, Mr. Olson. I’m proud of you!”


Alcee L. Hastings
Member of Congress

West Palm Beach Criminal Mischief Attorney David W. Olson Offers a Complimentary Case Review

Attorney David W. Olson is a criminal defense attorney with offices in West Palm Beach, Florida. Attorney Olson’s practice areas include criminal mischief, juvenile matters, DUI, DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide, all drug offenses, domestic battery, murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, robbery, all other violent crimes, weapons charges, violation of probation, grand theft, sex offenses, fraud, and all other offenses.

Attorney Olson’s clients are from West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, Broward County, Miami-Dade County and elsewhere throughout South Florida and the State. Spanish is spoken in the office and all individuals are welcome.

For a complimentary, confidential case review, call the Law Offices of David W. Olson at 561-833-8866.


Criminal Mischief, Sec. 806.13, Fla. Stat. (2015)
Florida Standard Jury Instructions 12.4, Sec. 806.13 (1) – (2)

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