Is vandalism theft? The short answer is no – vandalism and theft are two different criminal acts as defined by West Palm Beach, FL laws. However, it should be noted that one is no worse than the other. Both are considered as property crimes, so you will find that the penalties for vandalism and theft equally bears great consideration.

Defining Theft

Theft is the willful taking of the personal property of another. This does not involve violence on the part of the person taking the property, as opposed to robbery. Hence, you will find that laws often impose higher penalties to robbery as opposed to theft.

Vandalism is viewed as “criminal mischief” in the eyes of the law. This is defined as the willful or intentional damage or injury caused to a real or personal property of another person. Hence, it does not just involve movable properties but also immovable (real) properties such as lands and building. Under criminal mischief, there is vandalism, defacement, breakage, graffiti, and other destructive acts.

Criminal Mischief Penalties

The penalty for criminal mischief depends largely on the value of the damage or injury caused by the malicious act. If the damage is at $200 or less, this is tantamount to 60 days in jail or a second-degree misdemeanor. If the damage is more than $200 but less than $1000, this is punishable by 1 year in jail. The imprisonment may be up to 5 years in jail if the damage is more than $1000.

It should be noted that at 1 year of imprisonment, the crime charged is already a first-degree misdemeanor. At 5 years of imprisonment, it is already categorized as a third-degree felony. This is under the same category as petty theft where the amount of property taken is at most $3,000. When it comes to felonies, the state takes full cognizance of the act and the wrongdoer by establishing stricter penalties and entering them in a large scale database for reference purposes.

Defenses for Criminal Mischief

Most people are of the opinion that being charged with the crime of vandalism is better than being charged with a crime of theft. However, it must be noted that socially, both are considered to be crimes than can alter the perception of people to the person charged or the defendant, especially since they can be categorized as felonies. That being said, it becomes doubly important for individuals to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer when charged with vandalism. It might seem like such a small thing, but conviction under criminal mischief can have a huge impact in a person’s life.

There are currently several defenses available to individuals charged with vandalism. This includes lack of intent, legal justification for the act, accidental vandalism, and even the right of the victim to sue the accused. Despite the number of possible defenses, however, it takes a good criminal defense lawyer to properly stipulate and prove these defenses.

So is vandalism theft? No – but the gravity of the offenses are practically the same in the eyes of the law. Hence, individuals charged with vandalism should never take these suits for granted. If you have been charged with vandalism, speak to a vandalism and theft attorney at once.