Vandalism is the defacement, damage, or destruction of any real or personal property that does not belong to you. If the damage or destruction is done to vehicles, street signs, building walls, or other property belonging to a public entity, it is assumed that the person neither owns the property, nor received permission to alter it. Under California Penal Code Section 594-625c, vandalism is prohibited by law and can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on how the prosecutor chooses to charge the crime. A misdemeanor conviction can result in up to one year of jail time, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. As a felony, vandalism can result in up to three years of state imprisonment, a fine of up to $50,000, or both. Specific penalties depend on both the cost of damage done and the offender’s previous criminal history.
Vandalism is a costly offense that can permanently taint your criminal record. Attorney Aaron Spolin has had countless victories in defending non-violent crimes and maintains an outstanding trial record to prove it. His timeliness in filing effective legal motions and tactful use of investigators and analysts when necessary has contributed to the success of the Spolin Law.
If you are facing vandalism charges and are in need of knowledgeable legal representation, contact Spolin Law at (310) 424-5816.
Punishments for Vandalism
The legal ramifications for vandalism largely depend on the cost of the damage done. If the damages amount to less than $400, the defendant will be face a misdemeanor and up to one year in county jail and/or a $1,000 fine. If damages amount to less than $400, but the accused has a prior conviction, the maximum fine goes up to $5,000. For damages more than $400, jail time can be up to three years in a state prison. If the damage exceeds $10,000, the defendant is susceptible to a $50,000 fine. An additional 2two to four years of possible jail time may be added if the vandalism is connected to promotion of gang activity.
Aside from criminal consequences, vandalism can come with civil penalties as well. The court may order you to clean up, fix, restore, or reimburse the damaged property. If the vandalism involved graffiti, a judge may order you to keep the affected area or other community property clean for up to a year. Additionally, if you are over 13 years old, you risk losing your driver’s license for up to two years. If you do not have one, the court may bar you from obtaining a license for one to three years.
Defenses for Vandalism
Vandalism may seem like an intentional crime, but there are many defenses where it can be argued that the accused did not purposefully mean to deface property. Some possible defenses for vandalism include:
- Lack of intent: California Penal Code 594 states that vandalism must be committed with malicious intent to be charged as a crime. Perhaps a graffiti artist mistook privately owned property for a communal art park. These “graffiti parks” are prominent in California, New York, and Austin, Texas. If the defendant lacked the intent to damage property, it can be argued that vandalism as a crime did not occur.
- Consent given by owner: To be considered vandalism, the defaced property must have been damaged without the owner’s permission. If the owner grants consent to have their property altered, they cannot claim vandalism. An example of this would be if your boss asked you to paint their fence, but later disliked the paint job you applied to their property. Your boss cannot accuse you of vandalism because he gave you permission to paint his property.
- No criminal purpose: You may have vandalized property without knowing the result was criminal. Perhaps your friend falsely told you he owned the property that was defaced, but he deceived and coerced you without your knowledge. In this case, it can be argued that the vandalism committed had no criminal intent.
- Mistake in ownership: You may have had a genuine belief that you owned the property that was defaced, but were sorely mistaken. This might happen if property is legally between ownerships, such as if another party were in the process of selling you their car, but you did not have legal ownership of it yet before you altered it. Here, you can argue that you made an error in realizing the property was not yours.
Successfully arguing a strong defense can prove your innocence in vandalism charges. If delivered by an effective attorney, the case may end in a not-guilty trial verdict or dismissal of charges. To learn more about defenses to vandalism, reach out to the Spolin Law at (310) 424-5816 to speak with a lawyer.
Consult with a Vandalism Attorney
In cases pertaining to non-violent crimes, the defense of a powerful attorney can be pivotal to ensuring penalties are not disproportionate to the crime. The quality of your attorney can affect your criminal record, determine whether or not you keep certain civil privileges, and means the difference between a maximum jail sentence and minimal time served. Spolin Law differs from other legal representation through its persistent negotiation of plea deals, aim for minimal sentences, and consistent record of success at trial.
If you or someone you love is facing vandalism charges, contact the Spolin Law at (310) 424-5816 for a free consultation.