When you sent your child off to Florida Gulf Coast University, you probably didn't expect to hear from him or her on a consistent basis. After all, this is your student's first real taste of freedom. Maybe secretly, you hoped he or she would call feeling homesick, but instead, you got a different call.
The call that came from the police station informed you that your child faces charges for criminal mischief. You need to know two things -- what that means in Florida and whether it will affect his or her ability to remain in college since an arrest often triggers an administrative procedure at the university.
What does criminal mischief constitute?
Here in Florida, criminal mischief means vandalism, which means the malicious and willful destruction of another party's property. The law specifies that it includes graffiti in this offense but can involve a variety of acts. For example, keying a car out of anger because of a breakup could result in this type of charge. Getting angry and trashing someone's dorm room could also qualify. The question is whether the charges are a felony or misdemeanor.
That determination rests in the cost of the damage caused and the location as follows:
- Property damage of no more than $200 constitutes as a second-degree misdemeanor. The penalties include up to 60 days in jail and $500 in fines.
- Property damage ranging in cost between $201 and $999 constitutes a first-degree misdemeanor. The penalties include incarceration up to one year and $1,000 in fines.
- Defacing a place of worship, regardless of religious affiliation, constitutes a third-degree felony and could result in penalties of up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines. The amount of the damage only has to be no less than $200.
- Property damage of at least $1,000 also constitutes a third-degree felony with the same potential penalties.
- Property damage that interrupts a public service such as water, gas or electric and costs at least $1,000 to fix also constitutes a third-degree felony.
- Property damage that interrupts a business and costs at least $1,000 to fix constitutes a third-degree felony.
The criminal penalties alone could significantly affect your college student's future. The university may also suspend or expel your child, depending on the circumstances. Allowing your student to attempt to handle this alone could jeopardize the future you all discussed around the dinner table when he or she received the admissions letter to FGCU.