If you have been arrested for vandalism then you have been charged under California Penal Code 594. PC 594 defines vandalism as a malicious action that damages, defaces with graffiti, or destroys any personal property or real property. Vandalism can take many forms but common examples include smashing the window of a house or car; defacing or damaging a piece of art such as a statue, sculpture, or painting; spraying graffiti on a building, home, or roadway; damaging equipment or benches in a park; defacing a cemetery headstone; or any other action that falls under the definition provided in the law.
Vandalism is often the result of a temporary lapse in judgment. In some cases, it can be an argument that gets out of hand. In other instances, it can be alcohol or drugs that lead people to damage property. Whatever the cause, the penalties for vandalism under California law are substantial, with time in jail or prison, monetary fines, loss of driving privileges, and restitution (payment out of your own pocket to repair the damage that has been caused). Because of the severity of these potential penalties, it is critical to have an aggressive and experienced Sacramento criminal lawyer to represent you if you are facing charges for vandalism. Call me at 916-442-1200 for a free consultation on your case.Misdemeanor v. Felony Vandalism
Vandalism in California is classified as a “wobbler,” meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the specific details of the incident. If the police have charged you with vandalism that has resulted in less than $400 value of damage, then this is usually categorized as misdemeanor vandalism. In general, a conviction for misdemeanor vandalism comes with a fine of up to $1000 and time in jail of up to one year. However, if the incident of vandalism has resulted in damage of $400 or more then it will be charged as a felony, which means more serious consequences. The penalties for felony vandalism can include a fine of up to $50,000 (the exact amount depending on the value of the damage that was caused) and county jail or state prison time of up to one year. In addition, even if the damage caused would typically qualify the incident as a misdemeanor, the charge can be reclassified as a felony if you have prior convictions for vandalism.Additional Penalties for Graffiti Vandalism
Under PC 594, if you are convicted of vandalism for graffiti, the court can also require you to repair or clean up the property that was damaged and make sure that the property is free from graffiti for a year. The judge can also require you to do additional community service. In addition, California state law says that the county or city in which the graffiti vandalism was done is considered in legal terms as the victim. This victim status lets that local government go after graffiti taggers for restitution (meaning money that the graffiti taggers have to pay to the city or county) to be used for replacing, cleaning, restoring, or repairing damaged property.Vandalism and Loss of Driving Privileges
If you are convicted of vandalism, California Vehicle Code 13202.6 says that you can lose your driving privileges for as much as two years. If you do not yet have a driver license, the judge can mandate that the Department of Motor Vehicles must delay issuing a license to you for one to three years after you become eligible to obtain it. It might be possible, though, to have that suspension period delayed or reduced by agreeing to perform community service.Free and Confidential Consultation
As you can see, the law regarding vandalism is complicated and can have serious consequences for your future. It is imperative that you have a defense attorney with experience in the Sacramento region to defend your rights. My 25 years in criminal law - including past experience as a major crimes prosecutor - allows me to provide quality representation for my clients. Call me at 916-442-1200 for a free and confidential consultation.