That’s A Crime?–Willfully Damaging Art Works in Public Buildings

This is Part 2 in a series of blogs dedicated to obscure and perhaps unknown criminal laws in Florida.

Let me ask you something, what is not art?  ~Author Unknown

Today’s post deals with willfully damaging works of art in Florida.  Although perhaps it is not a surprise that damaging art constitutes a crime, most folks might think the crime would fall under Criminal Mischief.  But did you know there is actually a Florida statute that directly deals with willfully damaging art works in public buildings?

The statute can be found at 806.14 (Fla. Stat.), and states:

(1) Whoever willfully destroys, mutilates, defaces, injures, or, without authority, removes any work of art displayed in a public building is guilty of a criminal offense.
(2)(a) If the damage to the work of art is such that the cost of restoration, in labor and supplies, or if the replacement value, is $200 or less, the offense is a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(b) If the damage to the work of art is such that the cost of restoration, in labor and supplies, or if the replacement value, is greater than $200 but less than $1,000, the offense is a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(c) If the damage to the work of art is such that the cost of restoration, in labor and supplies, or if the replacement value, is $1,000 or more, the offense is a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

 

Background

This statute first became law in 1980, and was last amended in 1991.

Application

While researching this statute in Westlaw, no case law history emerged.

Possible defenses

While there is no case law to support my argument, there may be several defenses to this charge:

  • The damage to the art was not done willfully.
  • The building was not a public building.
  • The damaged product was not art.

Of all three defenses, the third is perhaps the most interesting, because as the introductory quote to this blog suggests, what is NOT art?  What if the damaged property was a clock?  Is a clock art?  Not surprisingly, there is no definition of “art” in the statute.

(Disclaimer:  This blog is not intended as legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.)

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