Police arrested a man this month, accused of painting graffiti on several local businesses in Jacksonville Beach. The man was arrested on two criminal mischief charges, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. One charge is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in the county jail. The second charge is a third-degree felony and carries a maximum penalty of five years in state prison.
So what makes one instance a misdemeanor and the other a felony? The amount of damage done to the property. If the damage is less than $200, as was reported in one of these Jacksonville Vandalism Charges, the charge is a second-degree misdemeanor. If the damage is between $200 and $1,000, the charge becomes a first-degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum charge of one year in the county jail. But once it becomes more than $1,000, the charge is a felony and time in state prison is now on the table. The $1,000 threshold applies to whether the damage was more than $1,000, or if the vandalism either cost more than $1,000 in labor and supplies to restore or repair. The charges also become a felony if the defendant has a previous conviction for the same offense, which does not appear to be the case in this Jacksonville Criminal Mischief Case. Now, it is highly unlikely a first-time offender will go to state prison for spray painting a building, but those are the maximum penalties he is facing in this Jacksonville Criminal Mischief Case.
The framework of charges and potential punishment escalating based on the value of the damage is common throughout Florida criminal law. There are similar scales of punishment in Jacksonville theft cases, based on the value of what is allegedly stolen. Charges begin, as Jacksonville Criminal Mischief Cases do, as second-degree felonies and move on up from there. Similar distinctions are made when it comes to Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases. The larger amount of an illegal substance a person is accused of having, the more serious the charges and the potential penalties. In Jacksonville Vandalism Cases, the more traditional outcome is the defendant agreeing to pay the business owner for the damage that was caused, and likely do some sort of community service or other punishment that does not include time in jail or prison. One element that could change in this case is whether more charges are filed as more businesses come forward, or the defendant talks to police about past acts. In some cases, the cumulative effect will influence sentencing, and lead to a more severe punishment than if the person was simply facing one or two counts.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Misdemeanor Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.