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Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorneys Explain How to Fight Vandalism Charges

Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorneys Explain How to Fight Vandalism Charges

Being accused of vandalism can be scary. As Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys, we understand the confusion and fear that a vandalism charge can cause. This article will explain what vandalism is, potential penalties, and most importantly—your defense options. With the right legal strategy, these charges can often be reduced or even dismissed.

What is Vandalism Under Florida Law?

Vandalism occurs when a person willfully damages or defaces someone else’s property without consent. This includes acts like:

  • Spray painting graffiti
  • Keying a car
  • Smashing windows
  • Slashing tires

Under Florida statute 806.13, vandalism can range from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony depending on the damage amount and other factors. More serious charges often apply when the property has special significance like a school, church, or other religious facility.

What Are the Penalties for Vandalism in Florida?

Common criminal penalties for vandalism include:

  • Up to 1 year in jail
  • Up to 5 years in prison
  • Fines up to $5,000
  • Restitution to the victim
  • Community service
  • Probation

You may also face civil lawsuits from the property owner seeking compensation. And if you are under 18, the court may order counseling or other requirements.

Fighting Vandalism Charges in Court

As former prosecutors, we understand all the legal strategies cops and the State Attorney’s Office use to build strong vandalism cases. But we also know where they slip up. By aggressively contesting the evidence and allegations, our attorneys have achieved many dismissals, nolle prosses, and acquittals for clients facing these charges.

Fighting the Charges Upfront

We start by scrutinizing the accusations and police reports for illegal searches, lack of probable cause, violations of your rights, sloppy police work, or other problems. If we uncover issues, we can file motions to suppress evidence or statements, which may knock down or dismiss the charges if granted.

Using Affirmative Defenses

We also explore potential affirmative defenses that could defeat the charges, such as:

  • Mistake of fact – You reasonably but incorrectly believed you had permission to draw on the wall or modify the property.
  • Self-defense – You damaged property while legally defending yourself from harm.
  • Necessity – You broke the window to save someone inside a hot, locked car.
  • Compulsion – Someone forced or threatened you to vandalize the property against your will.

The viability of these defenses depends on the unique details of your case. An experienced attorney can advise which option gives you the best chance of success.

Negotiating with the Prosecutor

Rather than risk trial, many vandalism cases resolve through plea bargains to lesser charges like criminal mischief, trespassing, or disorderly conduct. Prosecutors often make these deals to spare victims the hassle of testifying. We leverage our past working relationships with prosecutors to negotiate fair outcomes that avoid convictions whenever possible.

Taking It to Trial

If plea negotiations fail and the State insists on pursuing the vandalism charges, we take the case to trial. Our skilled trial attorneys know how to cross-examine witnesses to expose doubts and inconsistencies in their claims. We also present evidence and testimony supporting your innocence or lawful reasons for your actions. An acquittal clears your record completely.

Finding the Best Vandalism Lawyer in Fort Lauderdale

The consequences of a vandalism conviction should not be taken lightly. These charges can haunt your criminal record, education, and career opportunities for years. But with an experienced defense attorney fighting for you, there are often ways to achieve much better results.

To discuss your case in a free, confidential consultation, contact our Fort Lauderdale firm online or call 954-999-9999. Early intervention by a lawyer can sometimes resolve charges quickly before they escalate further. Let us put our years of experience to work fighting for the best possible outcome.

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