Vandalism is defined under the California Penal Code Section 594 and covers a wide range of offenses. Normally, vandalism is prosecuted as a misdemeanor, but depending upon the circumstances, some actions may be prosecuted as felonies. Generally, a vandalism misdemeanor involves criminal activity punishable by no more than one year in a county detention facility. Because vandalism (specifically graffiti) can involve tens of thousands of dollars in damage, the fines levied by the Courts can be very stiff.
To prove a charge of vandalism, a prosecutor must demonstrate that the defendant defaced, damaged or destroyed the real property of another person by painting, marking, etching or chemically altering property belonging to someone else. Public property is also included in the definition and includes “real property, vehicles, signs, fixtures, furnishings, or property belonging to any public entity…”
Acts of vandalism that result in damage less than $400 can be punished by fines of up to $1,000, detention in a county jail facility of not more than 1 year, or both. Repeated acts of vandalism less than $400 can incur the same jail term, fines of up to $5,000 or both.
More serious acts of vandalism – those in which the damage exceeds $400 but does not exceed $10,000 can lead to a detention term of up to one year in a county facility and a fine of up to $10,000. If the damage exceeds $10,000 the fine can be increased to as much as $50,000.
In addition to the potential detention and fines, those convicted of vandalism can also be required by the Court to clean, repair, replace or restore the damaged property. Defendants can also be required to maintain damaged property for as much as a year following sentencing, meaning that the defendant can be required to clean new vandalism that occurs to a damaged property, even if the defendant did not cause the subsequent acts of vandalism. Parents and guardians can also be required to participate in restitution requirements if a minor under their care is convicted of vandalism charges.
Felony charges can be applied in vandalism cases if the act of vandalism is directed toward a church, synagogue, mosque, temple or other building owned or used by religious organizations and the vandalism is found to be a hate crime committed for the purpose of deterring people from exercising their religious beliefs or freedoms.
Although most vandalism charges will be prosecuted as misdemeanors, the law allows for felony charges under some circumstances, and enhancements to vandalism charges may allow a Judge to apply longer sentences to defendants convicted under this section of the California Penal Code. The fines for acts of vandalism can be intense, and parents can face significant financial risk if one of their children is convicted of a vandalism charge.
Defendants who are facing vandalism charges need the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Robert M. Helfend is a criminal defense attorney in Ventura County, and has successfully defended clients facing California criminal charges for 30 years. Mr. Helfend provides aggressive criminal defense in Ventura County. For a consultation on your case involving vandalism in Ventura County, contact the Law Offices of Robert M. Helfend toll-free at (800) 834-6434 or locally at (805) 273-5611, (310) 456-3317, or (818) 591-2809. Robert M. Helfend is an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you!