criminal mischief attorney in Bradenton/sarasota speaking with their client across a desk in a law office

Most of our clients had never even heard of criminal mischief until they were arrested for it. The good news is that Van Elswyk Law has years of experience providing criminal defense against criminal mischief charges in Sarasota, Florida.

If you are unlucky enough to be one of the many Floridians charged with criminal mischief each year, do not delay contacting our law firm. The sooner we start representing you, the stronger our position as we work to negotiate lesser penalties or get the charges dropped or reduced.

What is criminal mischief?

Criminal mischief is any activity where one person willfully and maliciously damages the property of another, including defacement. It is a little-known crime that covers a variety of actions that affect both private and public property, but one of the most common activities that fall under this charge is graffiti. 

Defending Against a Criminal Mischief Charge

For a prosecutor to convict you of criminal mischief, they must prove that you intentionally and maliciously damaged property belonging to another.

The simplest part of this requirement is proving that the property in question did not belong to you. Typically, this part isn’t in dispute. As we construct your defense, we may contest other elements of the charged crime.


Even if you deface property, you haven’t necessarily damaged it. For example, if you were to throw mud on a wall or fence, that likely wouldn’t result in damage. The mud can easily be removed with no meaningful cost or lasting injury. Similarly, chalking a sidewalk wouldn’t be considered damage.

If you are arrested, it’s likely that the circumstances aren’t so clear-cut. But in any situation where it isn’t clear that property is damaged, we will challenge that element of the crime.

The Actor

Just because something was damaged doesn’t mean you did the damage. In any criminal case, the prosecution must prove that you were responsible for the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If applicable, our legal team may collect evidence that points to other responsible parties or proves your alibi.

Intentional and Malicious Damage

The final element is the one that the prosecution most often has difficulty proving. Even if you damaged property belonging to another person, unless you did it intentionally and maliciously, you can’t be criminally penalized. You may still be susceptible to civil charges if you were negligent, but not to criminal sanctions.

Because this part is the most difficult to prove, it also provides us with the most room to negotiate for reduced charges or sentencing before a case goes to trial. If you have never been previously convicted of criminal mischief, we could negotiate probation or a fine and keep you from getting a felony on your record.

Protecting Your Rights

Florida has been particularly strict about enforcing criminal mischief laws since the early 2020s. Acts that might have been charged as a misdemeanor before then are now often charged as felonies, especially if they resulted from any sort of protest.

Because of this strict enforcement, our law firm is always on the lookout for violations of our client’s rights. If the state didn’t properly advise you of your Miranda rights or attempted to punish you for the content of your speech rather than for your actions, we might make a motion with the court to have the charges dropped.

To protect your rights, the first thing you should do after being arrested is demand to speak to a lawyer. The police must stop questioning you until a criminal defense attorney from Van Elswyk Law is present. If they continue to try to question you after you assert your right to an attorney, note everything they do and advise your lawyer as soon as possible.

You should be aware that, unlike many crimes, the police don’t need a warrant to arrest you for criminal mischief. This means that a lack of a warrant doesn’t represent a violation of your rights.

Why Choose a Criminal Defense Attorney from Van Elswyk Law?

The founding attorney of our law firm worked as a Florida prosecutor for seven years. That experience helps Brice Van Elswyk determine how strong a case the prosecution has and whether they have enough evidence to convict you at trial.

We use that information to help you decide whether you want to go to trial or may be better off negotiating a plea deal. And if you decide to deal, Mr. Van Elswyk’s experience means that he knows how to effectively get results that will protect your rights and limit your penalties.

Contact Van Elswyk Law in Sarasota, FL, Immediately

If you are arrested for any charge relating to criminal mischief, don’t take chances with the criminal justice system. Contact a skilled criminal defense attorney at Van Elswyk Law as soon as possible to schedule a case evaluation and learn about your rights and legal options.