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When the term “vandalism” is used, most people conjure images of neighborhood children causing a ruckus by smashing mailboxes or egging cars. While this may be a form of vandalism, California Penal Code 594 defines vandalism as maliciously defacing property with graffiti as well as damaging or destroying property. While these are typical elements of vandalism, there are many activities classified under PC 594 that are lesser known. If you’ve found yourself with a California Penal Code 594 charge, it’s essential to not only hire an experienced vandalism attorney, but to fully understand the qualities and penalties of this law.
Penal Code 594 Examples
Before delving into penalties and other vital information regarding a PC 594 charge, it’s important to understand what qualifies as a charge. The following are examples of activities that full under this penal code:
You and your partner get into a heated argument. During the peak of emotional intensity, you break a flat-screen television that you both own. While you partially own this property, since its ownership is shared, you just committed vandalism under California Penal Code 594.
You’ve had a disagreement with your neighbor. Instead of talking it out, you “key” his car as an act of revenge.
Walking home from a friend’s house, you notice fresh cement is drying on the sidewalk. Innocently, you scribe your name into the cement. Although many wouldn’t consider this vandalism, under California Penal Code 594, such an act is grounds for arrest.
Legal Defense Stances for a PC 594 Charge
If you’ve been arrested and charged with vandalism, it’s essential to contact an attorney who’s experienced dealing with these type of charges. While California takes vandalism offenses seriously, a professional legal team may be able to have the charges reduced, or even dismissed. Although the specifics of your case determines your legal defense, common defense strategies include:
Damage done to property was not done so purposefully. Resulting property damage was an accident, not the result of premeditated intent.
You did not physically cause the damage; you’re being falsely accused.
You’ve been a victim of mistaken identity.
Due to the nature of these crimes, most cases are founded on hear-say. That is, the majority of cases do not have tangible evidence, such as video recordings of the incident. Because of this, a full conviction can be difficult as prosecution must provide substantial evidence proving your hands not only caused damage, but the resulting damage was premeditated.
Penalties of a California Penal Code 594 Conviction
To better understand the severity of this charge, it’s valuable to understand potential penalties of a vandalism conviction. In the state of California, the punishment for vandalism is directly related to the dollar value of damaged property. If the monetary value of damaged property exceeds $400, potential penalties include one to three years in jail as well as a potential fine of up to $10,000. Depending on the severity of the damage, final sentencing may carry longer jail time and/or higher fines.
If property damage is less than $400, California considers this crime a misdemeanor, which carries a potential sentence of one year in county jail as well as a maximum fine of $1,000.
If you’ve found yourself charged with vandalism under California PC 594, it’s essential to reach out to an experienced vandalism attorney. With their professional advice and guidance, it may be possible to avoid conviction, or reduce the severity of the charge.