What Are the Penalties for Car Vandalism in Florida?

If you've been arrested for a vandalism crime or you've committed a vandalism crime and know you are about to be caught, the time to act is now. Depending on the property damage amount, vandalism can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony crime. You could be facing jail or prison, fines, and a permanent criminal record that could be a bar to employment or educational opportunities. Contact a criminal defense lawyer who handles property crimes in Florida today!

Florida Vandalism Laws

Vandalism is referred to as criminal mischief under Florida State Statute 806.13. In order to commit criminal mischief, the defendant must have injured or damaged property belonging to another person. It's important to note that police and state attorneys classify acts like breaking a car window to access the interior as burglary. The act of criminal mischief, in this case, is what is referred to as a lesser included crime. Criminal mischief involves a destructive act that has no other purpose than to destroy the property.

Florida law has different classifications for vandalism;

  • If the damage amounts to $200 or less, the crime is charged as a second-degree misdemeanor.
  • If the damage is greater than $200, but less than $1000, it is a first-degree misdemeanor.
  • If the damage is over $1,000, it is a third-degree felony.

In addition, there are exceptions that can enhance the penalties. For instance, if the damage is to a religious building and is over $200, it is a third-degree felony. The same threshold applies to sexual predator commitment facilities. Finally, it's also a third-degree felony to damage a phone or phone utility wires, regardless of the amount of the cost of repairs. There is no special exception for car vandalism. The misdemeanor-felony damage thresholds are as stated above for other types of properties.

Car Vandalism vs. Burglary

Cars are often vandalized just for the sake of destruction, but they're also damaged when individuals are trying to break into them. While smashing a car window is usually only charged as misdemeanor criminal mischief in most cases, it can be categorized as burglary of a conveyance if the police can show that there was an intent to commit a crime inside. Under FSS 810.02, burglary is a third-degree felony if the vehicle is unoccupied and a first-degree felony if the vehicle is occupied.

Criminal defense lawyers will often attempt to get burglary charges reduced to criminal mischief because it generally involves lower penalties.

Frequently Asked Questions About Car Vandalism

The following questions have been asked by multiple criminal defendants. If you require legal advice about your case, call our Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach criminal defense attorneys near you for immediate and diligent representation.

Can You Go to Jail for Vandalism in Florida?

Yes, vandalism is charged as either a misdemeanor or felony under Florida State Statute 806.13. You can end up in jail or prison depending on the damage amount. This is why you need to retain the services of a top-tier criminal defense lawyer to represent you.

What is the Penalty for Vandalism in Florida?

The penalties for most vandalism convictions are as follows:

  • Second-degree misdemeanor – Up to 60 days in jail or probation and a $500 fine
  • First-degree misdemeanor – Up to a year in jail or probation and a $1,000 fine
  • Third-degree felony – Up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine

You may also have to pay restitution for the damaged property. Additionally, Florida charges additional fines for graffiti convictions. You can be charged an additional $250 for a first conviction, $500 for a second conviction, and $1000 for any convictions after that.

Is Keying a Car Illegal in Florida?

Keying a car is illegal since it causes damage to the paint job. Whether it is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the amount of damage to the car. If the aggregate damage amount exceeds $1,000, it will be classified as felony criminal mischief.

What Is the Average Sentence for Vandalism?

The courts take a grim view of property destruction. With that said, there are maximum penalties for each level of criminal mischief. In principle, you could be facing the maximum sentence, but Florida judges will often consider lighter sentences if you have a relatively clean record or there are mitigating circumstances.

I Only Broke a Car Window. Why Am I Being Charged With Burglary?

When the police investigate a crime scene, they are supposed to take the totality of circumstances into consideration. If, for instance, you broke a window and removed something from the car, then the objective of the act wasn't only to commit criminal mischief; it was to steal an item inside the car. In this case, burglary would be the appropriate charge.

What Should I Do If I've Been Arrested for Car Vandalism?

If you're arrested, the things you say and the actions you take can have a significant impact on your case. Do not fight with the police. Physical resistance can lead to additional charges. You can answer basic information questions, like your name, DOB, and address, but it's not in your best interest to discuss your whereabouts, relationship with the victim, etc. This is particularly true if you feel the need to lie. Police officers are adept at tricking subjects into making false statements to trip up their stories or to provide incriminating information. Ask to speak to your attorney before answering any questions.

Vandalism Defense Lawyers in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach

If you've been charged with a vandalism crime in Broward or Palm Beach counties, you owe it to yourself to discuss your case with a private criminal defense lawyer. Your attorney can review your vandalism charges and the evidence against you and determine the best course of action. You could opt for a public defender.

While that is the least expensive option, public defenders are often overworked and are expected to clear massive caseloads. In order to get your vandalism punished or reduced, your best bet is a private criminal defense attorney. In Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, that's Weinstein Law. For further information on everything you need to know about auto accidents, check out our car accident lawyer faqs.

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