Vandalism is the intentional marring, damage, or destruction of someone’s property. California defines a wide range of activities that is considered vandalism. Examples of vandalism are:
- Breaking a window or door;
- Damaging trees;
- Keying a car;
- Tampering with equipment such as vending machines;
- Smashing dishes a family owns out of anger towards another person.
If you’ve been charged with vandalism, you need a criminal defense attorney to defend you. Sacramento criminal attorney David Knoll understands the complex laws surrounding vandalism, and helps you avoid or offset the potential jail time and heavy fines you might incur.
Charges for Vandalism in California
You can be charged with either misdemeanor vandalism or felony vandalism. The law is very specific as to what constitutes these charges.
- A misdemeanor vandalism charge occurs when the damage to property is less than $400.
- A felony vandalism charge occurs when the damage to property is $400 or more. It is possible that the prosecuting attorney will charge you with a misdemeanor, even if the damage is $400 or more. The decision depends on any past criminal convictions and the circumstances of the case.
California Penalties for Vandalism
If the damage to property is less than $400, and you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor, you may have to:
- Serve up to one year in a county jail;
- Pay a maximum fine of $1000;
- Pay a maximum fine of $5000 is you have a previous vandalism conviction.
Informal or summary probation is also possible and may have one or more of the following conditions attached:
- Suspension of your driver’s license for up to two years;
- Delay of 1-3 years in getting a driver’s license if you don’t yet have one;
- One year of maintaining a property to ensure it stays graffiti free;
- Psychological counseling;
- Community service.
If the damage to property is $400 or more, and you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, you may have to:
- Pay a maximum fine of $10,000;
- Pay a maximum fine of $50,000, if the damage was $10,000 or more;
- Be incarcerated for up to one year.
However, if convicted of a felony, the possible additional penalties are as follows:
- Serve up to one year in a county jail with probation;
- Serve a jail sentence from 16 months to three years;
- Mandatory jail sentences with two prior convictions.
Penalties May Differ for Other Types of Vandalism
The penalties for graffiti are sometimes different. If the property damage was less than $250, you may have to pay to repair the damage. If you’ve had a first, second, or third conviction, the punishment will be harsher.
If you deface, damage or destroy a place of worship you can face a misdemeanor or felony charge. If the vandalism was a hate crime, you will automatically be charged with a felony.
There are other penalties involved if the vandalism involved caustic chemicals, or took place near a highway or freeway.
As you can see, the laws surrounding vandalism in California are complicated. Local criminal defense lawyer David Knoll has handled hundreds of vandalism cases and knows how to create a defense that defends your rights against the charges you may be facing.Help with Vandalism Charges