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Court Explains the Elements of Criminal Mischief Under Florida Law

In some instances, a court will sentence a defendant convicted of a crime to probation rather than ordering the person to serve a term in prison. If a defendant violates probation by committing a crime, however, the probation may be revoked, and a stricter penalty may be imposed. As in other criminal matters, the State must prove each element of the offense that allegedly constituted a violation in order for the defendant to be deemed guilty. Recently, a Florida court set forth an opinion discussing what the State must establish in order to prove a defendant committed criminal mischief in a case in which it was the basis for the revocation of the defendant’s probation. If you are accused of criminal mischief, it is prudent to retain a knowledgeable Florida criminal defense attorney to assist you in asserting a defense.

Factual and Procedural History

It is alleged that the defendant was convicted of multiple crimes, after which he was sentenced to probation. One of the conditions of his probation was that he was to live without violating the law. The condition stated that it was not necessary for a conviction to be obtained for a criminal violation to be considered a violation of his probation. While the defendant was on probation, he was accused of violating the conditions imposed on him by engaging in criminal mischief and other activities.

Reportedly, the violation accusations arose out of an altercation with his ex-girlfriend in which a vase broke. A hearing was held, after which it was determined that the defendant committed criminal mischief and other offenses. Thus, his probation was revoked. The defendant appealed, arguing the trial court failed to demonstrate he committed criminal mischief.

Elements of Criminal Mischief Under Florida Law

Under Florida’s criminal mischief statute, the State must prove that a defendant took acts to destroy someone else’s property, maliciously, and willfully. The court explained that willfully meant knowingly, intentionally, and purposely. Similarly, maliciously means intentionally and wrongfully, without legal justification or an excuse. For an act to be considered malicious, it must also be undertaken with the knowledge that it may cause an injury to another individual or damage to the property of another person.

The court explained that the doctrine of transferred intent could not support a conviction for criminal mischief. Additionally, the court noted that it could not be presumed that a defendant acted with malice simply because property damage occurred. In the subject case, the court noted that while the State alleged the defendant acted with intent to harm his ex-girlfriend, it failed to demonstrate malice with regard to the vase. Thus, criminal mischief was deleted as a basis for the revocation of the defendant’s probation.

Speak with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Florida

Criminal mischief is a crime of intent, which means that if the State cannot prove a defendant’s actions were willful, it should not be able to obtain a conviction. If you are charged with criminal mischief or another crime that constitutes a probation violation, you should meet with an attorney to evaluate your rights. Attorney Genine Ann Mejia is proficient at defending people charged with crimes in the Florida courts, and if you hire her, she will fight tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact Ms. Mejia via the form online or by calling (386) 463-0849 to schedule a conference.

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