Juvenile Vandalism Defense Lawyers

Juvenile Vandalism Defense LawyersChildren and young adults have been known to participate in acts of vandalism as a form of rebellion, self-expression, or aggression. These acts can manifest in the form of graffiti, property damage, or other variations of defacement. While most circumstances of juvenile vandalism cause only minor damage, there have been instances of violent and long-lasting effects resulting from these crimes. 

In the State of Florida, juvenile vandalism can result in the perpetrator being charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the infraction. Penalties associated with these convictions include fines, community service, or jail time. 

If you or your child was recently involved in a vandalism incident, it is vital that you understand your rights and how to move forward with your case. Working with an experienced juvenile defense attorney can reduce the likelihood of incurring a higher punishment than the court would normally recommend for cases involving vandalism and property damage. 

Understanding Vandalism

When you think about the word “vandalism,” you likely picture a public building spray-painted with graffiti that depicts gang signs or unsightly images. In the past decade, graffiti has become less of an indication that a neighborhood is a bad place to live and more of a movement all on its own known as “street art.” Many cities have designated certain public walls and “art alleys” where graffiti artists are welcomed to create murals and designs without fear of punishment. 

However, spraying graffiti (also known as “tagging”) on a public space that has not been approved for this specific use is still considered an actionable offense. Blocking out the windows of a restaurant with paint or spraying obscenities onto someone’s personal property is still a crime, and the largest number of perpetrators are children and young adults from the ages of 13 to 17. 

There are other varieties of vandalism that might cause you or your child to be convicted of a crime. For an act to be considered vandalism in the State of Florida, it must meet one of the following criteria: 

  • Defacement of physical property, which includes tagging, carving, painting, graffiti, or other semi-permanent damage 
  • Destruction of personal property, such as defacing a private residence, smashing windows, cutting cables, or damaging a building’s structural integrity
  • Intentional harm, the direct and purposeful destruction of another person’s property or personal effects, especially if the destroyed property is a symbol of religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or political affiliation

In these circumstances, criminal mischief may lead to a conviction that will ultimately result in punishment and restitution. There are a number of different consequences that can occur for a minor if a juvenile vandalism case is brought to court, some of which are more serious than others.

Consequences and Punishments for Juvenile Vandalism

As with any crime, juvenile vandalism is subject to punishment based on the severity of the action. Most consequences related to criminal mischief correspond with the damage that was done during the incident. When working with juvenile cases, judges may act in the interest of specific deterrence, which seeks to discourage young offenders from repeating their actions in the future. 

Vandalism has a tiered scale of punishments which directly relates to the degree of property damage caused by the defendant. This can range from community service to a steep fine, depending on the severity of vandalism. 

  • Property damage valued at $200 or less: A second degree misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail
  • Property damage valued between $200 and $1,000: A first degree misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail
  • Property damage valued above $1000: A third degree felony charge, punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to 5 years in prison
  • Maliciously defacing a place of worship resulting in damage over $200: A third degree felony, punishable by a $5,000 fine and/or up to 5 years in prison

If the vandalism being investigated is exclusively graffiti, there are regulations in Florida which reduce the severity of punishment for minors under the age of 18. This means that any juvenile offenders brought in on graffiti vandalism charges must participate in community service and pay fines based on their number of incidents, rather than serving a criminal conviction. 

  • First incident: $250 fine 
  • Second incident: $500 fine 
  • Third incident: $1,000 fine

Once a first incident is processed in court, the defendant’s record is sealed, which prevents educational institutions or future employers from being able to access that information. In order for that to occur, however, you will need the help of an experienced juvenile justice lawyer to build a solid defense. 

Long-Term Side Effects of Vandalism

Research on criminal mischief has shown that individuals who are imprisoned at a young age have a higher likelihood of committing crime when they become adults. More than 80 percent of individuals convicted in their youth are arrested again before they turn 30. Being asked to pay a fine for property damage may deter someone from committing a similar crime in the future, whereas experiencing jail at a young age can permanently damage the mental health of a minor. 

Juvenile offenders incarcerated during their youth have been shown to experience worse physical health due to the lack of adequate healthcare in prisons. After they have left the criminal system, many of them experience significant post-incarceration disadvantages as a result of stigma. These individuals deal with distrust from family and friends, in addition to judgement from employers and schools, all of which contributes to the increased rates of drug overdose, PTSD, and suicide in former prisoners.

Contact a Trusted Juvenile Defense Lawyer in Orlando, Florida

A young adult who commits a crime should not have to spend the rest of their life suffering the consequences. Here at The Umansky Law Firm, we believe that everyone deserves a second chance. Our systematic approach to juvenile defense helps mitigate damage to your child’s future and seeks to place them within programs that will help them in the long-term.

When you’re ready to take the next step and begin building your defense, call an experienced team of professionals who will walk you through the process every step of the way. Call us today at 407-228-3838 or contact us online to book a virtual consultation with one of our expert juvenile defense lawyers.