What You Need to Know About Vandalism Charges-Penal Code Section 594
Vandalism — a kind of “malicious mischief” under state law — might sound like kid stuff, but the consequences can be quite serious for those who are facing a charge of vandalism. California Penal Code 594 defines this crime as maliciously damaging or destroying property that’s not yours, or defacing it with “graffiti or other inscribed material.” That means a wide variety of destructive or unsightly behaviors could be considered vandalism, including seemingly minor crimes like shooting at a stop sign or scratching a name into a desk.
Vandalism can be filed as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the dollar amount of the damage the vandalism caused, and whether the accused had any previous criminal record. If the damage is below $400 and there’s no prior offense, the penalties are up to a year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. If there is a prior offense for graffiti or vandalism, the punishment jumps to up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000. If the damage is over $400 then the case can be filed as a felony and the accused faces up to a year in jail or a state prison sentence of up to three years and a fine of up to $10,000; if the damage is valued at $10,000 or more, the fine rises to $50,000 and may be imposed along with time in jail or prison.
In addition to these punishments, a court can also order anyone convicted of vandalism to personally clean up or repair the damage, or keep a property free of graffiti for a year. Parents of minors convicted of vandalism can be required to help with this, unless it would be detrimental to their children. People of any age ordered to perform this sort of community service can also be ordered to counseling. And if a fine is imposed on a minor, his or her parents can be held liable for it unless that would be a financial hardship.
Wallin & Klarich can often negotiate with prosecutors to reduce or eliminate vandalism charges before they’re filed. Before filing, the district attorney’s office must consider whether to file the case as a felony or a misdemeanor. In some cases, Wallin & Klarich may be able to convince the prosecutor not to file the charges at all. In the event charges are filed, Wallin and Klarich we can argue for community service and graffiti cleanup duty rather than a jail sentence. Hiring our law firm at an early stage can help minimize the damage that a vandalism arrest can do to your life and your future.