At least eight people – ranging in age from 15 to 30 – were arrested on vandalism and other charges following riots in downtown Huntington Beach after the conclusion of the U.S. Open of Surfing, a week-long surfing competition. According the Los Angeles Times, the violence erupted the night of July 29 as the crowd of spectators and visitors moved up Main Street. Police said some people began tipping over portable trash cans and toilets and that a stop sign was used to smash the window of the Easyrider bike shop.
Videos of the riots shot by cell phone cameras and posted on social media went viral shortly after the incident. Police are looking at videos and photos from residents and social media to identify additional suspects who may have been involved in vandalism and other criminal activity, officials said. This incident is an example of how law enforcement officials use social media web sites such as Facebook and video sharing sites like Youtube to track down suspects in criminal cases.
Consequences of a Vandalism Conviction
California Penal Code section 594 prohibits intentionally or maliciously defacing, damaging or destroying another’s property. Vandalism charges are serious in Orange County and a conviction can result in severe punishments including jail time and hefty fines. Vandalism may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony depending on the value of the property that was defaced or damaged and the criminal history of the defendant.
If the damage adds up to $400 or more, the defendant can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony and the penalties may include up to three years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines. If the value of the property is less than $400, those convicted could face up to one year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
Defenses Against Vandalism
A knowledgeable Orange County criminal defense attorney can bring forth several winnable legal defenses to fight vandalism charges. Your attorney can argue that the property was destroyed by accident. This means that the damage or destruction was not intentional on the part of the defendant. Your defense lawyer can also argue that the allegations are false or that you were wrongfully arrested. In some cases, vandalism charges can be spurred by feelings of jealousy or by someone who wants to get back at you. For example, a former girlfriend or spouse can allege that you keyed her car simply to get you in trouble.
Mistaken identity is another legal defense in vandalism cases. One example of this is when someone is “caught on camera” destroying property. However, many videos, especially ones shot on cell phones, are grainy or blurred. Often, it is not possible to identify a person on a video with iron-clad certainty. If you have been mistakenly identified as the suspect, you cannot be convicted.
Contact Wallin & Klarich
If you have been accused of vandalism, it is critical that you seek the counsel and guidance of an experienced Orange County criminal defense lawyer who will fight the charges and strive to obtain the best possible outcome in your case. It would be a mistake not to take these or any other criminal charges seriously. A conviction not only means possible jail time and fines, but also the creation of a criminal record, which could have long-term consequences on your career and your future.
The attorneys at Wallin and Klarich have over 30 years of experience defending vandalism and other criminal charges. Call us at (888) 280-6839 if you are facing vandalism charges. We will get through this together.