What You Need to Know About Vandalism Charges-Penal Code 594
What is Vandalism?
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 vandalism charges. 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.
Michelangelo is an artist and enjoys painting murals in his spare time. One day he notices a liquor store with a clean wall facing the main street. Michelangelo thinks this would be the perfect spot for his next masterpiece and paints a mural about his favorite food. Unfortunately, Michelangelo acts without speaking with the store’s owner Julius’s permission or approval. Julius reports Michelangelo to the police and he is arrested and cited for vandalism as his mural, although technically art, caused damage to Julius’s property.
Carrie loves her boyfriend and has been completely faithful to him for years. One day she discovers that her boyfriend has been seeing another woman behind her back. Angered by these events, Carrie drives to his home and hits his car repeatedly with a baseball bat and keys the side panels. Carrie’s boyfriend discovers the damage and reports her to the police. Police arrest and cite Carrie for vandalism since she intentionally damaged his property.
Miles is part of a tagging crew. Some days he uses a marker or spray-can to tag his affiliation in key spots across the city. Lately, Miles has been using prepared stickers with his tagging name and crew. Miles believes that because his tagging is on a sticker and can be removed that he cannot be convicted for vandalism. Unfortunately, police witness Miles placing one of his stickers and he is cited for vandalism. Miles can be convicted for placing the stickers since the stickers themselves caused damage to private property and the damage does not need to be permanent.
Punishment for Vandalism Charges
Vandalism charges 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.
Contact Wallin & Klarich Today If You Are Facing Vandalism Charges
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. Call us today at (877) 466-5245. We will get through this together.