Have you been charged with vandalism? In the state of California, the legal punishments for vandalism charges depend largely on the value of the item or property that was vandalized. If the damage value is estimated to be less than $400, this can result in a misdemeanor vandalism charge, which comes with it the risk of prison time and/or a thousand dollar fine. If the monetary value of property damaged is over $400, the prosecution has the option of whether to pursue felony or misdemeanor charges.
Misdemeanor vandalism charges for property valued over $400 can result in up to a year in jail and/or up-to $10,000 in fines. Felony vandalism charges can result in multiple years in jail and/or thousands of dollars in fines. If the property damage itself is worth $10,000, the fine for the accused vandal can be in excess of $50,000.
How is Vandalism Defined in California Law?
In California, we typically think of vandalism first as graffiti or broken windows – kid’s stuff. But the law extends beyond that. Arson, defacing street signs, cutting down trees without consent, destroying power lines, and damaging motor vehicles could all fall under acts of vandalism.
You may be found guilty of vandalism in CA if you defaced, damaged, or destroyed any piece of property that is not owned (or owned in part) by yourself. Prosecution will seek to prove that you acted maliciously, establish that the property was not yours to do with what you wished and that the damages were upwards of $400 in total.
What if the Accused Has Previous Vandalism Convictions?
Even if the damage was minimal, if the defendant has prior convictions for vandalism, then they can expect their penalties to be harsher than before.
If a vandal has a previous conviction for a similar offense, then they may risk not only a year in prison but also a potential financial fee of up to $5,000. Whether this is your first charge for vandalism or not, it would be best to speak with a criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.
What Other Potential Punishments Exist for Vandals?
In addition to the fines and potential for jail time, other penalties do exist for those convicted of vandalism in the state, including:
- Damaging or defacing a place of worship can be charged as a hate crime, resulting in harsh consequences.
- Graffiti vandals may be required to not only clean off their paint but keep the space clean of all future graffiti done by other artists for a set period of time.
- Performing vandalism at the direction of or to the benefit of a street gang can result in severe legal repercussions, including years in prison and a strike against your record.
- The accused could lose their driver’s license for up to two years.
Contact our law firm at 949-577-8368 for legal assistance today.