California Penal Code Section 594 defines vandalism as any person who maliciously defaces with graffiti, damages, or destroys any real or personal property. This definition is so broad that it encompasses any sort of destructive or unsightly behaviors. Specifically, you could be charged with vandalism for minor crimes, such as scratching you name into a desk or throwing eggs at someone’s house or car.
Essentially, if the property or item does not belong to you and you destroy, deface or damage it without the owner’s consent, you could be charged with the vandalism under PC 594.
Prosecution of Vandalism in California (PC 594)
In order to be convicted of vandalism, the prosecution has the burden to prove all of the following:
- You maliciously defaced with graffiti, damaged or destroyed real or personal property; and
- You did not own the property
In some cases, the prosecution may also have to prove that the amount of damage caused by your vandalism was $400 or more.
Consequences of Vandalism
Vandalism is a considered to be a “wobbler” offense. This means vandalism can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. How you are charged will depend on the circumstances of your case and your criminal history.
A felony conviction is punishable by up to three years in state prison and a fine of $10,000. Vandalism is usually a felony when the damage you caused valued more than $400. However, vandalism committed against a church can be a felony regardless of the amount of damage caused.
In addition to potential prison time and fines, anyone who is 13 years of age or older and is convicted of vandalism could lose their driving privileges for up to two years. The court can suspend your driver’s license even if the circumstances of your case had nothing to do with driving.
Defenses to Vandalism Charges in California
There are many valid defenses to vandalism our skilled criminal defense attorneys have used to successfully defend our clients facing vandalism charges. A defense against vandalism charges can be used if the you acted unintentionally and without any intent to destroy the property. In addition, you can not be convicted of vandalism if you damaged or defaced property that belonged to you. Further, it is a defense if the owner of the property gave you consent to damage or deface the property.
It is critical that you have the help of an experienced vandalism attorney who knows the proper defenses to use if you are being accused of vandalism in California.
Call a Vandalism Attorney Immediately
If you are being accused of vandalism in California, you need to speak to a skilled criminal defense lawyer immediately. At Wallin & Klarich, our knowledgeable attorneys have been successfully defending our clients facing vandalism charges for over 30 years. We know the valid legal defenses to this crime and may be able to help you beat these charges and avoid jail time.
With offices in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Sherman Oaks, Riverside, San Bernardino, Torrance, West Covina, Ventura and Victorville, our experienced vandalism attorneys can help you no matter where you work or live.
Call our offices today at (888) 280-6839 for a free consultation over the phone. We will be there when you call.