Your ex may have had it coming; however, slashing tires, breaking windows, or destroying their property could end with an arrest and a charge of vandalism. Depending on the severity of the damage and value of the property that was damaged, you could even find yourself facing serious felony charges for your actions-even if the property was partly owned by you or was given as a gift. The State of California takes a hard stance on individuals who destroy property, and defendants could find themselves serving time in prison for their crimes.
Vandalism-the Law in California
Vandalism is addressed in California’s Penal Code 594 PC. According to California law, anyone who defaces, damages, or destroys someone else’s property is guilty of vandalism and can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. In order to be found guilty of vandalism, however, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That you defaced, damaged, or destroyed another person’s property;
- That you did so intentionally and with malice; and
- That the amount of the damage exceeded $400 in a felony prosecution.
PC 594 applies to property you do not own, as well as to property that you own jointly. This means that you are not allowed to destroy or deface public property, property owned by another individual or even property that you own jointly with another person.
For example: A husband and wife get into a serious fight. After the altercation, the wife throws her husband out of the house and his cellphone out of the second story window, shattering the phone into hundreds of pieces. According to California law, she could be charged with vandalism.
Types of Vandalism
There are many different types of vandalism in the State of California, but the most common are:
- Graffiti (spray painting buildings or bridges)
- Damaging mailboxes
- Slashing tires or damaging car paint
- Damaging telephone wires or other public works equipment
- Breaking windows
- And more
Penalties for Vandalism in California
The penalties and consequences for vandalism depend largely on the amount of damage that was caused by your actions. If the total amount of damage exceeds $400, then you could be charged with a felony. If the total amount of damage does not exceed $400, then you can be charged with a misdemeanor. In today’s day and age, it is quite easy to rack up $400 of damage. After all, simply damaging one iPhone or iPad will certainly cause you to exceed the $400 limit. If you are convicted of vandalism in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, or anywhere in the State of California, you will face the following penalties and consequences.
- Damage less that is less than $400
- Up to year in county jail
- Maximum fines of up to $1,000; $5,000 maximum if you have a prior vandalism conviction
- Suspension of your California driver’s license for up to 2 years (Vehicle Code § 13202.6)
- Community service
- Repairing or replacing the damaged property
- Damage that exceeds $400
- Felony conviction
- Up to 3 years imprisonment
- Up to $10,000 fines
- Community service
- Loss of California Driver’s License for up to 2 years
- Repairing or replacing damaged property
There are several defenses your San Jose criminal defense attorney can employ to have your vandalism charges reduced or even dismissed all together. Innocent men and women are charged with vandalism every year simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is a case of mistaken identity and without the right legal representation you could be convicted of a crime you did not commit.
The amount of the damage that was caused could be in dispute. It is very important for your San Jose criminal defense lawyer to ensure that the value of damage in question is not inflated or exaggerated, since the amount of damage has a direct correlation to the severity of your vandalism charges.
Even in clear cut vandalism cases, your San Jose criminal defense lawyer can petition the court to allow for a civil compromise. This compromise allows the defendant to pay the victim for the damage and for any distress this damage has caused. In return, the court can dismiss the vandalism charge(s) against the defendant.
Redwood City Vandalism Defense Lawyers
At Ahmed & Sukaram, our San Jose criminal defense lawyers understand the complexities surrounding vandalism cases in the State of California. We also know that innocent men and women are charged with vandalism every year and face serious legal consequences as a result. Without the right representation, your future is at stake. If you are charged with vandalism in the State of California, contact the dynamic legal team of Ahmed & Sukaram immediately. We are ready to fight to protect your rights and secure your freedom.