Experienced Vandalism Defense Attorney
California Penal Code 594 defines vandalism as the malicious damaging, destroying, or defacing with graffiti (or other inscribed material) of any real or personal property that does not belong to you. This applies to real property, vehicles, signs, fixtures, furnishings, or public property.
In order to be convicted of vandalism, the prosecutor must prove that you:
- Maliciously defaced, damaged, or destroyed property
- Did not have sole ownership of the property
Vandalism offenses include spraying graffiti on a public building, keying someone elses car, smashing a mailbox, and costly destruction of property. If you are facing vandalism charges in San Diego County, contact the Law Office of Peter Blair. Mr. Blair devotes 95 percent of his practice to litigation, so you can rest easy knowing that your case is well-prepared and trial-ready. Dont let vandalism charges negatively affect your life”call (619) 357-4977 or contact us online to schedule your free and confidential consultation.
Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing
Penalties and sentencing for vandalism charges, much like theft charges, depend on the value of the damage. If the damage amounts to less than $400, it is considered misdemeanor vandalism. If the damage amounts to $400 or more, it is deemed a œwobbler under California law. Therefore, a prosecutor choose to charge you with either felony or misdemeanor vandalism, depending on the circumstances of your case and your criminal history.
Misdemeanor vandalism: If the value of the damage is less than $400, the vandalism is automatically a misdemeanor California law. Misdemeanor vandalism is punishable by up to one year in county jail, a maximum fine of up to $1,000, and informal probation.
Informal probation in California can include:
- Community service
- Required counseling
- Drivers license suspension of up to two years or a one- to three- year delay in eligibility to receive a drivers license
If the value of the damage is $400 or more and the prosecutor charges you with misdemeanor vandalism, you would face the same penalties listed above, but the maximum fine is increased to $10,000. If you are charged with misdemeanor vandalism for more than $10,000 worth of damage, you could face a fine of up to $50,000.
Felony vandalism: If the value of the damage is $400 or greater and the prosecutor decides to pursue felony charges, you could face either (1) probation and up to one year in county jail, or (2) 16 months, two years, or three years in jail. You could also be subject to a fine of up to $10,000 and informal probation. (If the amount of damage adds up to more than $10,000, the maximum fine is increased to $50,000.)
Punishment and sentencing are dependent on the factors of your individual case. A prosecutor can opt to pursue less than the maximum punishment in certain cases, such as on a defendants first offense.
California graffiti laws: If you are charged with defacing a vehicle, facility, or other property with graffiti (or œother inscribed material) and the value of the damage is less than $250, the prosecutor can choose to pursue different penalties under Penal Code 640.5 and Penal Code 640.6 PC, Californias graffiti laws. The penalties and punishment under Penal Code 640.5 and 640.6 are less harsh than the vandalism penalties established by Penal Code 594 PC.
Penalties under California graffiti laws are determined by whether or not you have prior convictions. For each conviction, the penalties are as follows:
- First offense: treated as an infraction and punishable by community service and up to $1,000 in fines
- Second offense: treated as a misdemeanor and punishable by community service, up to six months in county jail, and up to $2,000 in fines
- Third (and subsequent) offense: treated as a misdemeanor and punishable by community service, up to one year in county jail, and up to $3,000 in fines
Certain aggravating factors can subject you to additional punishment or extended sentences.
Prior convictions for vandalism will increase the maximum fine or jail sentence for subsequent convictions. Misdemeanor vandalism typically carries a maximum fine of $1,000, but a prior conviction for vandalism increases the maximum fine to $5,000. If you have at least two prior vandalism convictions (at least one of which resulted in probation or jail time), you must serve a jail sentence for the third convictions and any subsequent convictions.
Vandalism of a place of worship is addressed in Penal Code 594.3. Vandalizing a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, cemetery, or building owned and occupied by a religious school is automatically treated as a wobbler. In other words, a prosecutor can choose to charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony, regardless of the value of the damage.
Misdemeanor vandalism of a place of worship is punishable by probation, up to one year in county jail, and a fine of up to $1,000. Felony vandalism of a place of worship is punishable by probation, a fine of up to $10,000, and jail time of sixteen months, two years, or three years.
If the vandalism is deemed a œhate crime, you could face automatic felony charges under Penal Code 422.6. A vandalism hate crime is defined as defacing, damaging, or destroying the real or personal property of another person in order to intimidate or interfere with them on the basis of religion.
Vandalism by means of corrosive chemicals involves the use of butyric acid (or œany similar noxious or caustic chemical or substance) and is classified as a wobbler by Penal Code 594.4 PC. Vandalism involving caustic chemicals as a misdemeanor is punishable by probation, up to six months in county jail, and a fine of anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000. Vandalism involving caustic chemicals as a felony is punishable by sixteen months, two years, or three years in prison, as well as the aforementioned probation and fines. (The value of the damage will determine the fine in these cases.)
There are a number of legal defenses to use in vandalism cases, including:
- Lack of intent or malice: The prosecutor must prove that you maliciously and intentionally damaged the property in question. If the damage was unintentional, you could argue lack of intent to vandalize.
- Ownership or consent: Vandalism only occurs when the property in question did not belong to you and you did not have permission from the rightful owner to alter it. If you can prove that the property belonged to you (or that you had permission from the owner to deface or damage it), you could avoid a vandalism conviction.
- Mistaken identity: As with any other criminal investigation, a vandalism conviction depends on arresting and charging the right person. If you are the victim of false accusations or a false arrest and there are no witnesses to the crime, you could avoid conviction on vandalism charges.
Contact an Experienced San Diego Vandalism Attorney
Dont let vandalism charges put an emotional or financial strain on your life. If you are facing vandalism charges in San Diego or a neighboring city, contact the Law Office of Peter Blair. The criminal court system can be extremely confusing, and you deserve an experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on your side. The Law Office of Peter Blair is committed to ensuring that you are well aware of your rights during the legal process and that you are treated fairly.
Call the Law Office of Peter Blair at (619) 357-4977 or contact us online to schedule your free and confidential consultation. During your consultation, we will work to develop a sound defense strategy that will help put these charges behind you.