In the state of California, under Penal Code 594, any time damage is done to another’s property, whether through graffiti or any other type of damage, the perpetrator could be charged with vandalism and could face serious penalties. When a person maliciously defaces, damages or destroys the property owned by another person—or co-owned with another person—vandalism charges may be filed. There are many different types of property damage and vandalism including, but not limited to:
- When one spouse breaks items inside the couple’s home that are owned by the two of them;
- Keying another person’s car, or otherwise vandalizing it;
- Writing your name in wet cement on a city sidewalk;
- Slashing another person’s car tires;
- Breaking windows in another person’s home or vehicle;
- Damaging a park bench;
- Running over another person’s mailbox;
- Carving your initials into furniture, a lamp post, or even a tree, or
- Spray painting graffiti on a school or any other wall.
There are other crimes which are also prosecuted under California vandalism laws. As an example, any type of vandalism to a government building or vehicle falls under California Penal Code 640.5, while any type of vandalism to a church or synagogue falls under Penal Code 594.3. For those under the age of 18, possession of aerosol paint cans is a crime, detailed under California Penal Code 594.1, and possession of vandalism tools by any person is punishable under California Penal Code 594.2.
Penalties for the Crime of San Diego Property Vandalism
Your exact penalties will depend on the overall dollar value of the damage to the property. When the damage equals $400 or more, the crime of vandalism is a wobbler, meaning the prosecutor may choose to charge the crime as a felony or a misdemeanor. When the damage to the property equals less than $400, it will be charged as a misdemeanor crime.
- For the misdemeanor crime of vandalism, when damage equals less than $400, the penalties for a conviction are up to one year in San Diego county jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, informal or summary probation, a license suspension of up to two years, counseling and community service.
- When the damage to property is more than $400 and is charged as a misdemeanor, you could face up to one year in San Diego county jail, a maximum fine of $10,000, informal or summary probation, a license suspension of up to two years, counseling and community service.
- When the damage to property is more than $400, and the crime is charged as a felony (based on the circumstances of the case and your prior criminal history), you could face probation and up to one year in a San Diego county jail or a county jail sentence of 16 months, two years or three years. You will also face a maximum fine of ten thousand dollars, (up to $50,000 if the vandalism damage was $10,000 or more), informal or summary probation, a license suspension of up to two years, counseling and community service.
If you have two prior convictions for vandalism, and you were either granted probation or served time in a San Diego county jail for at least one of those convictions, a jail or prison sentence is mandatory in your current vandalism case should you be convicted. If you are charged with graffiti, with less than $250 damage, the prosecutor can choose to charge you with an infraction, under a more lenient California Penal Code. The penalties for such a crime would be a maximum of $1,000 in fines, and community service. If, however, your act of vandalism is charged as a hate crime (a crime meant to scare or intimidate another person, based on that person’s race or religion), then your vandalism crime will automatically be charged as a felony.
Defenses to Your Crime of Property Vandalism
While the specific defense for your crime of property vandalism will be tailored to the circumstances surrounding the crime, your San Diego criminal defense attorney could implement one of the following defenses on your behalf:
- The property vandalism was accidental on your part, rather than malicious;
- You were falsely accused of property vandalism, by someone who was angry with you and wanted revenge;
- You were wrongly identified as the perpetrator of the crime, or
- Law enforcement made procedural mistakes during your arrest for the crime of property vandalism.
Speak with a San Diego Property Vandalism Attorney Today
As you might expect, California juveniles make up a large percentage of those arrested for property vandalism. Parents of a juvenile convicted for vandalism could be held responsible for paying his or her fines, and could even be required to help him or her serve community service hours. If you or a loved one has been arrested on charges of property vandalism in San Diego, it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible in order to minimize the long-term damage.