Vandalism is a criminal act that involves deliberate damage or destruction to private or public property. It includes intentional property damage such as defacement or destruction of a property without the owner’s permission. Under the California vandalism law California Penal Code (PC) 594, you are guilty of vandalism when you maliciously commit acts like damage, destruction, or defacement of property valued more than $400 with graffiti or any other inscribed material. The penal code does not only apply to property belonging to another person but also properties owned jointly.

The charges of vandalism depend on the extent of damage, circumstances of the incidence, or possible gun affiliations. Destruction can lead to juvenile detention, jail terms, fines, probations, and other severe penalties, especially if you are a repeat offender. To avoid all those consequences while in Los Angeles, California, you must contact The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm to help drop or reduce your charges and penalties.

Overview of Vandalism

Types of Vandalism According to California Law

In the state of California, there are different types of vandalism. Some of the common vandalism cases include:

  • Damaging the public wall by painting
  • Graffiti (spray painting of bridges and buildings)
  • Damaging public work equipment or telephone wires
  • Breaking windows among others
  • Damaging mailboxes
  • Car tire piercing for someone who wronged you.
  • Breaking property that y during a fight with a spouse

Elements of Vandalism Crime

To prove that you are guilty of vandalism, however, the prosecutor must prove that:

  • You maliciously destroyed, damaged, or defaced property belonging to another person.
  • The damage you did was intentional and willingly.
  • The value of property damaged exceeds $400. It does not mean that the property of lesser value will not be of consideration.

Criminal Charges Connected with Vandalism

Penal Code 602 PC Trespass

California’s trespass law does not allow one to enter into another person's property without permission from the owner. It means that in case you are allegedly reported to have violated the vandalism law while on a property that does not belong to you, then you will be liable for any charges against you.

Penal Code 459 PC Burglary

When you get into another person's property intending to commit petty theft or felony, you violate the burglary rule that co to vandalism law in California. Therefore, if a prosecutor believes that you entered a property that did not belong to you and stole from the same property, they are likely to charge you for burglary and vandalism.

Penal Code 451 PC Arson

In California, setting a property on fire on a property that does not belong to you, and to some extent, it does not also allow to set fire on your properties is a prohibition. If your charges are setting fire on a property, vandalism law apples, and the expenses involved. The penalties for malicious arson will depend on:

  • Whether there was someone injured during the fire incident
  • The type of property that you set on fire and its value.
  • How you did set the fire, whether willfully or recklessly.
  • Penalties for Violating Vandalism Law in California

Consequences and penalties for vandalism depend on the extent of damage done and the property's value that was damaged. According to California law California Penal Code (PC) 594, your charge can be felony or misdemeanor. You are charged with a felony if the property's value that you damage is more than $400, while for the property valued less than $ 400, you are charged with a misdemeanor. 

Vandalism as a Misdemeanor

As said earlier, if you damage, deface or destroy a property that is worth $400 and below, the judge considers the vandalism as a misdemeanor. If your conviction is a misdemeanor, you are entitled to imprisonment in the county jail for a period not exceeding one year, a fine of not more than $1,000, or face both consequences. Vandalism as a misdemeanor depends on the number of times that you have for the same crime.

If you had previous convictions, vandalism is punishable by either fine not exceeding $5,000, a jail term not exceeding one year in county jail, or both fine and imprisonment. Other consequences include suspension of driving license, counseling, replacing or repairing damaged property, and community service.

Vandalism as a Felony

Suppose the value of the property that you damage is more than $400. In such a case, the prosecutor may charge the crime as a misdemeanor or as a felony. It will depend on your case particulars and the number of times you have had convictions.  For vandalism as a felony, your penalties and charges are either imprisonments, a jail term not exceeding one year, or a fine not exceeding $10,000 or more, depending on the amount that you have destroyed.

You may also end up on felony probation. If you have had previous convictions and served a jail term or probation, a jail sentence becomes mandatory. Some other consequences of a felony are probation, counseling, community service, loss of driving license, and replacement or repair of property damage.

Collateral Consequences Related to Vandalism

In addition to fines and jail terms, you may face other collateral consequences for vandalism. Determining the collateral consequences is done based on vandalism and the type of property that you damage. Such collateral consequences include; destruction of worship Places, vandalism of property on or near highways, and using chemicals to cause vandalism.

When you vandalize properties at worship places, you get misdemeanor charges whose consequences are a one-year jail term, a fine, and probation. If the vandalism involved chemicals, you would receive misdemeanor or felony charges whereby you will pay a fine and go to jail. If the property you destroyed is on or near the highway, you will face jail term whose length of stay will be determined by whether you have had previous convictions or not.

Looking at the above consequences, details of how charges are applied are as follows.

Vandalizing the Places of Worship

 Suppose treated as a misdemeanor conviction, where the penalties subjected to you are imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, a fine amounting to $1,000, and probation. If treated as a felony conviction, the judge subjects to penalties. Such penalties include fines amounting up to $10000, a jail sentence for 2-3 years, and probation.

Vandalizing Using Chemical

 If the crime is considered a misdemeanor, you will serve a jail sentence of up to 6 months. If treated as a felony, you are subject to a jail sentence of up to 3 years.

Vandalizing Near or On the Highway

 It is treated as a misdemeanor with the following penalties:

A fine that amounts to $1,000 or serves a jail sentence in county jail. Jailing is for up to six months if it is your first-time conviction. Community service and counseling is also a consequence.

Some of the adverse effects that will affect you if you are convicted of vandalism are:

  • Difficulty in finding and maintaining a permanent employment
  • Repairing, cleanup, or replacing the property that you damage
  • You may end up having issues with rentals.
  • You may lose your driving license.
  • Immigration status issues
  • Issues with visitation and custody of your child arrangements
  • Community service

In other cases, if you are convicted of a felony, you may lose your voting rights for a certain period and lose the right to a firearm that you own. Whether your charges are felony or misdemeanor, it is essential to take the first step, contacting a vandalism Attorney, who will ensure that you retain your freedom and rights.

Upon conviction of acts of vandalism consisting of property defacing with graffiti, the court shall order you to repair, clean up or replace the damages that you have caused, in addition to the jail term and fine that you will face. If the defendant is a minor, the parents or guardian will take responsibility for repairing any damage, keep the damaged property or another property free of graffiti for one year. If the court finds out that it is inappropriate to do the cleanup, it shall consider other service types that you will do for the community where feasible.

In case you are a minor and cannot pay the fine as ordered, the parents or guardians shall take responsibility and make the payment on behalf of the minor. The above consequences will apply if the damages that you have caused are not permanent and cannot be aggravated. Penalties and charges for graffiti will depend on the number of times you have been convicted for the same crime.

First Conviction

If you have no previous vandalism convictions, the potential penalties include a maximum amount of $1000, a community service, and a fine.

Second Conviction

If you had previous vandalism convictions, the graffiti whose repair cost less than $250 becomes a misdemeanor. The penalties, however, are less. They include imprisonment in the county jail for up to 6 months, a fine not exceeding $2,000, and community service.

Third and Subsequent Convictions

If you have been convicted more than twice before and served a jail term or probation, you will face misdemeanor penalties which include imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, a maximum amount of up to $3000 and community service.

How Can You Defend Yourself From Vandalism Charges

Vandalism may sometimes seem like an intentional act, but many defenses can prove that the action was not malicious or purposeful. Under the California vandalism law, there are several defenses that an attorney can present on your behalf to drop or reduce your vandalism charges. Some of the common arguments for vandalism include:

Vandalism as an Accident

Accidents do happen and are not often considered as vandalism. Suppose you accidentally damage a person's property. In that case, an attorney can argue that you did not deface or damage someone else's property maliciously. Therefore they can argue that you did not violate the California law of vandalism. In such cases, you will face charges, but, likely, it will not be considered a criminal act.

Mistaken Identity

Sometimes false accusations may be made against you due to some reasons:

  • That you match the description of the person who violated the vandalism law
  • That you did not vandalize the property, although you were seen together with the person who defaced it.
  • Someone else might believe that you are the one who defaced his or her property, even though you did not get involved.

False Allegations

Since vandalism often happens in connection with cases of domestic violence, One can make false allegations against an innocent person just to cover-up their criminal acts or gain control over him or her.

Insufficient Evidence

Lack of enough evidence by the plaintiff will help drop your charges because they will not sufficiently prove that you did the vandalism. What will happen if he or she was not able to collect any information that will be used against you in the court of law.

Defendant Owned the Damaged Property

For a vandalism charge to qualify as a violation, you must have defaced a property that does not belong to you. If you can prove that the damaged property belongs to you, that will be enough defense to drop the charges held against you.

Lack of Requisite Mental State/ Intent

According to Penal Code 594, you must have done the defacement intentionally. You will be charged for vandalism if you willingly defaced or damaged someone's property in your sound mind. Suppose you, as the defendant, did not act in a manner that is meant to deface or damage any property. In that case, it can be a defense that vandalism did not occur and that you did not violate the law of vandalism in California.

Consent Given by the Owner

You can use a property owner's consent to damage the property as a defense against vandalism charges held against you. It is because if the owner of the property gave you permission to deface or damage his or her property, then that is not defined as a violation of vandalism law in California.

If your Attorney strongly proves that you are innocent for vandalism, you may end up not guilty of any damage, destruction, or defacement, and your charges will, therefore, be dismissed.

Understanding the Vandalism Law-Court Process.

If you are not well familiar with the court proceeding for vandalism charges, you may find many technicalities, hence the need for an attorney who thoroughly understands the law. The California defense law firm can help you through the process, answer the questions that you may have, and discuss the options that will act as a defense for charges. The court process is usually lengthy, but it can be made more comfortable with the help of an Attorney.

Vandalism Investigation

A proper investigation is done before you are arrested. The reason being, if at all, the police did not see you commit the crime, then they will have nothing to prove that you committed the vandalism unless they do their investigation. The police will correct the evidence and interview witnesses that will prove that you did the damages intentionally.

The main reason why the police will do the investigation is to determine who did the vandalism because someone will have to be arrested. During the investigation, the police will interview you, search for you or your property. At this stage, you must contact an attorney to ensure that your rights are protected. The Attorney will work with the police to prevent your arrest, avoid criminal charges, and advise you on conducting yourself during the investigation period.

Arrest Process and Charges

The police will arrest you if they gather enough evidence to show that you indeed committed the vandalism. Search on you will also be done when you are arrested for confirming the allegations.

An arrest may happen on the spot or after an investigation. This will depend on the available evidence. If the police do the investigation and find you guilty of the crime, they will show up at your home and issue a warrant of arrest. After arrest, the prosecutor will decide on the course of action against you.

If there are no charges against you, the likelihood is that you will be released. If the prosecutor feels that there is enough reason to charge you, your release will be on bail, or you will be held in the county jail waiting for arraignment.

Appearance to the Court

It is the first appearance in court after arrest and charges filed. At an arraignment, reading of the charges filed against you, explaining your rights, and the court will appoint you a lawyer if you do not afford one. It is also during the arraignment that you will plead your charges, involve a lawyer so that you can understand the different consequences of your plea options.

A plea will either be:

  • Not Guilty, meaning that you did not commit the vandalism
  • Guilty, meaning that you agree that you did the crime
  • No Contest. It means that you do not accept the charges filed against you, although there is enough evidence to prove that you are guilty. Your Attorney will, therefore, show you the way to go regarding the plea you should enter.

Addressing the Bail

Your bail may be addressed during your arraignment or in a different hearing. Depending on your charge circumstance, you may be released without bail, deny bail, or set bail. In the case of a judge sets bail, you remain in custody until you pay the bail amount. The bail amount will depend on the seriousness of your charge and history. If a judge denies you bail, your case will proceed as you remain in custody.

Pretrial Process

The process is also known as discovery. It happens where the prosecutor and your Attorney will each provide their evidence of whether you did the vandalism or not or not. The critical issue at this stage is evidence admission. tabling our proof that you did not commit the vandalism is presented, and at this point, your attorney will defend your case. ofAt this point, it is too that the police violated your rights; the prosecutor will not use the evidence provided. It is usually at this stage that resolving the case is done and, therefore, do not go to the trial stage.

The Trials Process

At this point, evidence, arguments, and testimonies are presented to a jury or a judge. During the trial, the prosecutor will have to prove that indeed you are guilty so that the charge can move to the next phase of sentencing.

Hearing of Your Sentence

It happens separately from the verdict, where a judge or jury returns a guilty verdict. A judge sets a date for the sentencing hearing. He listens to recommendations presented by the defense lawyer and prosecutor. It is then that the judge will decide your sentence.

Making an Appeal

In California, you have the right to appeal for a verdict, and there have to be grounds for appealing. The ground for an appeal involves a specific court process such as:

There were law mistakes during your hearing, and that they affected the outcome of your charges. It may happen when the police use illegal evidence to prove your charges, and the prosecutor supported that. In case that happens, the court overrides the verdict or sends the case back for a new trial.

Consult a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Penalties and charges related to property vandalism are serious. If you do not understand property crimes, you may end up serving a jail sentence or other serious consequence. If you are charged with vandalism in Los Angeles, you should contact The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm to help drop or reduce your charges. We have been in operation for many years, and our attorneys have successfully defended many cases in both juvenile and adult courts in California. Do not hesitate to call us at 310-935-1675, and we will be happy to serve you according to our knowledge of vandalism laws and help you secure the best outcome.