Los Angeles Vandalism Attorney
When you hear the term “vandalism,” you likely think of teenagers spray painting the side of a building with obscenities and graphic images. While this action is certainly considered vandalism, the offense is considered a criminal one and covers a wide range of actions in California. If you key someone’s car, smash their mailbox, or write your name in wet cement, you could be found guilty of this crime. The penalties for a vandalism conviction include jail or prison time, large fines, and collateral consequences, so it’s important to contact a vandalism attorney as soon as possible if you’re facing charges for this offense.
Vandalism and the California Penal Code
Per California Penal Code (PC) 594, vandalism is defined as the damage, defacement (with graffiti or other inscribed material), or destruction of any real or personal property that belongs to another. To be punished for a vandalism offense, you had to have malicious intent, meaning you purposely intended to destroy the property of another person.
Common vandalism cases we see include:
- Spray painting the walls of public buildings
- Breaking shared property during a fight with your spouse
- Piercing the car tires of someone who wronged you
Acts that seem innocent may indeed amount to vandalism in California, so it’s important to retain the counsel of a skilled vandalism lawyer as soon as possible if you’re charged with this offense.
Classification of criminal vandalism charges vary. Depending on the value of the property damage you allegedly committed, you can face misdemeanor or felony charges. For damages that are valued at less than $400, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. Property damage that exceeds $400 or more is considered a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
If you’re found guilty of vandalism in California, you may face the following:
- Misdemeanor – Up to one year in county jail and fines reaching $1,000
- Felony – Incarceration in county jail for up three years and fines reaching $10,000
Under California law, certain acts of vandalism are considered more serious than others, and thus bring with them enhanced sentences. If you vandalize a religious institution, commit vandalism tied to a hate crime, or use harmful chemicals in the commission of a vandalism offense, your jail sentences and fines may increase.
In addition to jail time and fines, you face a number of collateral consequences for a vandalism conviction, including:
- Cleaning up, repairing, or replacing the property you damaged
- Difficulty finding and maintaining steady employment
- Rental housing issues
- Problems surrounding your child custody or visitation arrangements
- Issues with your immigration status
- Community service
Additionally, if you’re convicted of felony vandalism, you could lose your voting rights for a period of time, and lose your right to own a firearm.
Whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, you need to contact a vandalism attorney as soon as possible. By working with a lawyer from Spolin Law P.C., you are taking the first important steps to ensuring your rights and freedom remain protected.
Defenses Against Vandalism Charges
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 criminal defenses for vandalism include:
- Lack of Intent – PC 594 states that vandalism must be committed with malicious intent to be charged as a crime. If the defendant lacked the intent to damage property, it can be argued that a vandalism crime did not occur.
- Consent Given by Owner – To be considered vandalism, the defaced property must have been damaged without the owner’s permission. An example of this would be if your boss asked you to paint their fence, but later disliked the paint job you completed. Since your boss asked you to complete this work, you should not be found guilty of vandalism.
- Mistake in Ownership – You may have had a genuine belief that you owned the property that was defaced. 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 before you altered it. Here, your attorney can argue that you made an error in realizing the property was not yours.
- Mistaken Identity – Sometimes people make mistakes in identifying a vandal, as those that committed a vandalism offense run off after they are caught. Perhaps you bear a resemblance to an individual who actually committed the crime for which you’re being accused. If this is the case, your lawyer can argue for a case of mistaken identity.
- Accidental Damage – Accidents happen, and often they are not considered acts of vandalism. If you unintentionally damaged another person’s property, your attorney can argue this defense in court. You may still face civil charges for damages, but it’s likely that criminal charges won’t stand.
Successfully arguing a strong defense can prove your innocence in a criminal case. If one of the above defenses is delivered by an experienced vandalism lawyer, your case may end in a not-guilty verdict or potentially a dismissal of charges. Contact Spolin Law P.C. today for help with facing vandalism charges.
A Los Angeles Vandalism Attorney Can Help
The quality of your Los Angeles vandalism lawyer can affect your criminal record, determine whether or not you retain certain civil privileges, and can mean the difference between a maximum jail sentence and minimal time served. The criminal defense attorneys at Spolin Law P.C. differ from other legal representation through their persistent negotiation of plea deals, their aggressive defense if your case goes to court, and consistent record of success at trial.