Picture of a vandalized broken window inside a door with shattered glass, proof of Criminal Mischief. Maybe to commit Arson.


Florida punishes vandalism in two ways: Criminal Mischief and Arson. The difference depends on how you damage the property.

Criminal Mischief

Criminal Mischief is a generalist: any way you damage the property will do. It means willfully and maliciously injuring or damaging any real or personal property belonging to another. The statute doesn’t care how you do it.

But it cares why. In effect, the law punishes your intent, not the action. If you accidentally throw a football through a window, you’re in the clear. However, if you graffiti property or key a car, you’ve committed a crime. It’s because these aren’t accidents. You meant to do damage.

The punishment for Criminal Mischief increases as the damages increase. Damage under $1,000 is a misdemeanor. Damage $1000 or greater is a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Also, if you’ve been convicted of Criminal Mischief in the past, your new misdemeanor Criminal Mischief becomes a felony too. Destroying or demolishing a memorial or historic property is a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.


If you intentionally damage property with fire or an explosion, you face Arson charges. You commit first degree Arson if you willfully and unlawfully cause damage, by fire or explosion, to any dwelling or its contents, any structure where people are normally present or its contents, or any structure that you knew or had reasonable grounds to believe was occupied by a human being. That’s punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Unlike the Burglary statute, this statute considers a boat, car and airplane a structure.

You commit second degree Arson if you damage property not covered by first degree Arson. For instance, if you burn another’s car, you face up to 15 years in prison. Also, Arson which causes great bodily harm to a person is a second degree felony. If it simply harms someone, it’s a misdemeanor.

Talk to an Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney!

But it doesn’t mean you’re guilty if you’ve been charged with one of these offenses. Mr. Brown has handled lots of property damage offenses and can’t wait to discuss your situation with you.

The criminal defense firm Brown Legal PLLC operates from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but regularly handles cases throughout South Florida and the rest of the state. Before it’s too late, talk to Mr. Brown and see if he can help you best defend yourself! Reach out over the phone at (954) 524-6700 or through the Contact Page if you have any questions.

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