In the state of California, the crime of vandalism is covered under Penal Code 594 (A). It is described as defacing property with graffiti, damaging or destroying it. When the value of property vandalized is less than $400, it can be charged as a misdemeanor offense. If the value of the property is over $400, a person could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. This will be determined by the local prosecutor. The circumstances of the crime and criminal history of the accused are factors that influence a prosecutor’s decision. If convicted of vandalism, a person can lose their driving privileges. A conviction for vandalism can also hurt a person’s future employment opportunities.
In order for a person to be convicted of vandalism, a prosecutor must prove the accused did it with malicious intent. They must also show the property was destroyed, damaged or defaced. It must also be property of another. Malicious intent means a person specifically intended to damage the property. When property is defaced, there has been some type of unauthorized writing, markings, scratches and more upon it. Defacement of property includes graffiti. Property of another includes public property or property the accused owns with others. This could include everything from landscaping to personal property, land, buildings and more.
Property Less Than $400
If a person is given a misdemeanor vandalism conviction for damaging property less than $400, they could spend twelve months in county jail. They could also have a fine of up to $1,000 for a first vandalism conviction. Any additional convictions could bring a fine of up to $5,000. A conviction could also bring informal probation and a 48-month drivers license suspension. There may also be mandatory counseling and community service requirements.
Property More Than $400
If a person is given a misdemeanor or felony vandalism conviction for damaging property more than $400, they could spend twelve months in county jail. They could also have a fine of up to $10,000 for a first conviction. Any additional convictions could bring a fine of up to $50,000. A conviction could also bring informal probation as well as up to a 48-month drivers license suspension. There may also be mandatory counseling and community service requirements.
Defense For Vandalism Charges
An experienced attorney will investigate the circumstances of the vandalism charge. If what happened was an accident, it cannot be considered vandalism. If the accused was simply performing a required action on the property, it might be considered an accident. Many times vandalism charges are filed against the wrong person. An individual could be at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and be identified with the actual property vandals. It is also possible for someone to be falsely accused by another person for acts of vandalism.
A person charged with vandalism needs to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. A legal professional may be able to get the charges reduced or dropped if possible. A lawyer can also inform a person of their rights, and work to get the best possible outcome for the situation.