Teens Charged with Felony Criminal Mischief for $30K in School Damages
February 16, 2023 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, Juvenile Offenses Social Share
Teenagers who commit a crime are likely to be prosecuted in the state of Florida. Regardless of age, being a minor does not excuse any person who has committed or attempted to commit a criminal offense from being charged by the State. In a recent Florida case, four teenage boys are facing multiple charges after destroying a Central Florida elementary school.
This page will provide the case details along with information on trespassing on school grounds, criminal mischief, burglary, and juveniles being charged as adults in Florida.
What was the Case?
Port Orange Police Department arrested four teenagers in relation to a Central Florida elementary school getting vandalized on February 5th, 2023. According to the report, Spruce Creek Elementary School received damages amounting to over $30,000 dollars.
The vandalism included damages to several portable classrooms, two storage sheds, and the windows to the main building getting smashed while the offenders were trying to gain entry.
The Port Orange Police Criminal Investigations Division managed to identify the four male suspects. All four were minors, with ages ranging from 14, 15, to 16 years old. The four suspects have been charged with trespassing on school grounds, felony criminal mischief, and burglary.
Trespassing on School Grounds
The state of Florida makes it illegal for any person to enter school grounds or facilities without having a legitimate reason or authorization to do so, or if they are a student who has been suspended or expelled.
Florida Statute Section 810.097 defines the term “school” as the grounds or facility such as a kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, junior high school, or secondary school, either public or private. This also includes school buses or other affiliated modes of transportation.
Any person who enters or remains on the school grounds owned by a school commits trespassing on school property. Under Florida law, getting caught trespassing on school grounds is a first-degree misdemeanor. A first-degree misdemeanor has penalties of up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year of imprisonment.
An individual who enters the school grounds and remains there after the principal or other person of authority has directed that person to leave can also be charged with first-degree trespassing on school grounds charge.
Important: The principal or other person of authority on the school grounds has the right to take the alleged trespasser into custody and detain them if there is probable cause to believe they have trespassed on school grounds. The detainment can remain until a law enforcement officer has arrived at the scene. Consequently, the taking into custody does not render that principal or person of authority criminally or civilly liable for false arrest, false imprisonment, or unlawful detention. Additionally, a law enforcement officer must be contacted regarding the alleged trespassing incident as soon as the principal or other authoritative person has detained the suspect.
Criminal mischief is the legal term for a person who has been criminally charged with vandalism. Vandalism is defined as the act of deliberately destroying or damaging public or private property. Types of vandalism include graffiti, defacement, or breaking property not belonging to the alleged offender.
Florida Statute Section 806.13 explains that a person commits criminal mischief when he or she willfully and maliciously destroys the real or personal property of another person or organization. This can include, but is not limited to, placing graffiti or other acts of vandalism.
In Florida, the penalties for a criminal mischief crime vary on the amount of damages caused in the act of vandalism. For instance, a person accused of criminal mischief in which the property damage was $200 or less can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. A second-degree misdemeanor has penalties of up to a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.
A person accused of criminal mischief in which the property damage was between $200 and $1,000 can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. As previously mentioned, the penalties for a first-degree misdemeanor include up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in prison.
A person accused of criminal mischief in which the property damage was more than $1,000 in labor and restoration costs can be charged with a third-degree felony. A third-degree felony has penalties of up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years of imprisonment.
It is also considered a third-degree felony if the criminal mischief offense took place at any of the following places:
- Other place of worship with religious articles inside
- Historical Property
- Telephone cables or any other equipment which would damage or destroy public telephone inoperative
If criminal mischief takes place at any of the spaces mentioned above and causes more than $200 in damages, the person can be charged with a third-degree felony in Florida.
Florida Statute Section 810.02 defines any offense of “burglary” after July 1st, 2001 to mean when a person enters a dwelling, structure, or conveyance with the intent to commit an offense therein, unless the premises are at the time open to the public or the defendant is licensed or invited to enter. It also refers to the committing of a crime inside a dwelling or structure after they have been given a licensed or invited entry.
Burglary can range from a third-degree felony to a first-degree felony depending on the details of the offense.
A third-degree felony burglary offense is when the person enters a building without permission and remains inside without such permission, but does not have an armed weapon, or explosive, or commits assault or battery while inside.
A second-degree felony burglary offense is when the person enters a building, occupied structure, or authorized emergency vehicle without permission and remains inside without such permission. It can also include a person who breaks into a building or structure with the intent of committing theft of a controlled substance.
A first-degree felony burglary offense is when the person enters any building or structure without permission and remains inside without such permission, and while inside is armed or becomes armed with a weapon or explosive, causes over $1,000 in damages, and/or uses a vehicle to assist in committing the offense.
To read more about burglary and its possible defenses, read our page here.
Teenagers Charged as Adults
Young adults going through adolescence face a wide series of changes. Their brains are still developing, their bodies are changing, and they’re at the sensitive age of peer pressure and “fitting in” among friends. Most importantly, they make mistakes. It is not uncommon for juveniles to make some not-so-smart choices. However, this does not exclude teens from punishment for committing crimes.
The state of Florida has been known to charge juveniles with criminal offenses. While some of these teens will face juvenile court, others may be facing adult charges. That means someone below the age of 18 could potentially face serious jail time in an adult prison facility. While not all crimes will result in a teenager being charged as an adult, the following list includes several of the specified felonies which could result in adult felony charges:
- Sexual Battery
- Armed Burglary
- Grand Theft
- Displaying or using a firearm in a felony offense
Florida’s Direct File Statute
Under Florida Statutes Sections 985.556, 985.557, and 985.56, a child may be transferred to adult court via a judicial waiver, indictment by a grand jury, or direct filing. Direct filling is the most common way that juveniles end up in adult court. Florida Statute Section 985.557 is the direct file statute.
What usually determines if the State will charge a minor as an adult is if they can identify particularly heinous factors from the alleged offense. If it is determined that the case has aggravating or heinous factors, or if previous attempts at rehabilitation or diversion programs have failed, the State may then “direct file” the juvenile to adult court.
This is what makes finding a defense attorney especially important. A skilled attorney will be able to review all the details and help strategize a strong defense for the teenager’s case.
Finding a Juvenile Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime in Florida, it is imperative that you seek out legal representation. The penalties for criminal offenses can seriously impact a person’s life. Between paying expensive fines and possibly going to prison, facing such charges on your own are out of the question.
Don Pumphrey and his team of attorneys have years of experience representing clients of all ages in the state of Florida. Our team will work with you to build a strong defense for your case. Whether you’re a teenager who has been accused of a crime, or the parent of a minor who is in trouble with the law, we highly advise you to contact Pumphrey Law Firm. Contact us at (850) 681-7777 or by sending us an online message to receive a free consultation regarding your case.
Written by Karissa Key