Under Florida law, a conviction for a criminal property damage offense, including arson or criminal mischief, can have serious consequences, including fines and significant jail time. The severity of the penalty usually depends on how severe the crime is, or the dollar amount of property damage caused. Two of the more common criminal property damage crimes are arson and criminal mischief.
A criminal property damage charge in Florida should not be taken lightly, as a conviction can have serious consequences. Penalties for criminal property damage crimes can include fines, significant jail time, and even driver’s license suspension in some circumstances. If you have been arrested and charged with criminal mischief, arson, or any criminal property damage crime, it is important that you speak with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney right away.
Criminal Mischief Offenses in Florida
To be convicted of criminal mischief, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you maliciously and willfully injured or damaged someone else’s personal or real property. The offense of criminal mischief also includes defacing property with graffiti or other acts of vandalism.
The penalties for a criminal mischief conviction typically depend on the amount of damage that was done to the property involved:
- If the damage is less than $200, the offense is considered a second degree misdemeanor where penalties include up to sixty days’ imprisonment, and a $500 fine.
- If the damage is between $200 and $1,000, the offense is considered a first degree misdemeanor, which can be punishable by jail time of up to one year, and a $1,000 fine.
- If the damage is more than $1,000, or if the damage causes the impairment or interruption of any public services or business, which costs more than $1,000 worth of labor and supplies to restore, the offense is considered a third degree felony. Third degree felonies can be penalized by up to fifteen years in jail, and a fine of $5,000.
Any repeat offenders of (1) or (2) can be charged with a third degree felony. Property damage caused by graffiti has penalties in addition to those listed above. A first time conviction for a criminal mischief offense that involves graffiti is also penalized with a fine of $250. For a second conviction, the fine is $500, and for a third or subsequent conviction, the fine cannot be less than $1,000. Those convicted of a graffiti offense will also be required to perform at least forty hours of community service, and possibly one hundred hours of removing graffiti. Minors that commit a graffiti offense are also subject to a one-year suspension of their driving privileges.
Arson Charges in Florida
To be convicted of arson, the state must prove that during the course of a felony, you willfully burned or caused damage by explosion to a dwelling, whether it was occupied or not, or any place or structure that was possibly occupied. An arson offense under these circumstances is considered a first degree felony, which is punishable by up to thirty years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. However, if the building or structure that is burned or damaged is not occupied, or a place that is not normally occupied, such as an abandoned building, the offense is considered a second degree felony, which is punishable by up to fifteen years in jail, and a fine of up to $10,000. Finally, if someone else is injured as a result of the arson, you can face additional penalties for that injury.
Trespass Charges in Florida
Under Florida law, trespass offenses are typically misdemeanors, but depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, and particularly whether you committed the offense while armed with a weapon, the offense can be considered a felony. Basically, there are four ways to commit trespass in Florida. These categories of trespass include trespasses in structures, trespasses in conveyances, trespasses on property that is not a structure or conveyance, and trespasses on school property. But to be convicted of trespass under any of these categories, you generally have to willfully or intentionally enter or remain on someone else’s property without a license, authorization, or an invitation, OR, refuse a request to leave the property of someone else.
Misdemeanor Trespass Charges in Florida
Trespass offenses are typically considered second degree misdemeanors, particularly if you enter or remain in a structure or building, or a conveyance such as a motor vehicle or boat without consent or permission. However, if someone else is present in that structure or conveyance, the trespass offense can be elevated to a first degree misdemeanor.
You can also commit a first degree misdemeanor trespass if you are on property that is not a structure or a conveyance, and you are there (1) without permission, and (2) despite the fact that there are signs or notices that indicate that you should not be there or should not trespass. Trespass on school property without consent or permission, or without a legitimate reason is considered a second degree misdemeanor unless you remain after you have been asked to leave. In this case, the trespass is also a first degree misdemeanor.
In Florida, the penalties for a second degree misdemeanor conviction include up to sixty days in jail and a $500 fine. A first degree misdemeanor conviction carries penalties of up to one year imprisonment, and a $1,000 fine.
Felony Trespass Charges in Florida
Trespass in any case can be elevated to a third degree felony offense if you are found to have committed the offense while armed with a firearm or other dangerous weapon. Other trespass offenses that are potentially considered third degree felonies are those that (1) occur on large construction sites with posted warnings; (2) occur on agricultural testing and research sites with similar posted trespass warnings; (3) occur on commercial horticultural property with posted warnings; (4) occur at a domestic violence center; (5) occur at agricultural chemical manufacturing facilities that have posted trespass warnings; or (6) if you attempt to take or kill an animal without authority. A third degree felony conviction can include penalties of up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
A conviction of trespass can have lasting impacts on your day to day life, including your ability to obtain a job or a student loan, not to mention a possible jail sentence and a significant fine. If you have been charged with trespass, it is important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. There are many defenses to a trespass charge, including the fact that you might have had the property owner’s consent to be on the property, or you entered the property out of necessity. Either way, a knowledgeable attorney can determine whether a particular defense may apply to your case and the chances for a successful outcome.
The attorneys at the Musca Law can review the evidence in your case, can advise you of your rights and responsibilities, and can help you determine the most effective strategy for fighting your criminal property damage charge. Schedule a free consultation with Musca Law by calling (888) 484-5057 and let a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney help you fight your criminal property crime charge today.