Under California Penal Code Section 594(a) it is prohibited to maliciously deface, damage, or destroy someone else’s property.
In order to prove the commitment of vandalism, a prosecutor must prove the following elements:
- Defendant maliciously damaged, destroyed or defaced public or personal property with graffiti or inscribed material.
- Defendant was not owner of the property and didn’t have the owner’s consent
California Penal Code Section 594 Applies to Personal and Public Property
California Penal Code Section 594 applies both to public and personal property that you own jointly with someone else. So you are not allowed to damage, destroy or deface public property, property owned by another individual or even property that you own jointly with another person.
What are Common Forms of Vandalism in California?
There are many types of vandalism in California, but the most common are: graffiti (any unauthorized drawing or writing on property with any kind of tool), slashing tires or damaging car paint, damaging mailboxes, breaking windows, damaging telephone wires or other public works equipment.
What are Legal Defenses for Penal Code 594 Vandalism?
The Damage Was Not Done “Maliciously.”
California Penal Code section 594 requires that defendant “maliciously” commit vandalism. If the action was unintentional, accidental or negligent it serves as a valid legal defense.
Ownership of the Property
In case defendant actually owned the damaged, destroyed or defaced property he should not be found guilty or charged with the offense.
In case the “victim” gave his permission to damage or destroy the property, then defendant did not commit the crime of vandalism
Penalties for Violating California’s Vandalism Law
In case the value of the defaced, damaged, or destroyed property is less than $400, defendant can only be charged with misdemeanor vandalism. If the value of property is $400 or more, then vandalism becomes a wobbler and the defendant can be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor.
Are California Vandalism Crimes Eligible for a Probation?
Generally vandalism crimes are eligible for a probation sentence. Probation terms can include restraining orders, repayment of the damaged property, community service, required counseling. Felony probation requires the defendant to check in with a probation officer, whereas misdemeanor probation does not require the supervision of a probation officer.
Penalties for Misdemeanor Vandalism Value is Less than $400
If the value of the vandalized and or damaged property is less than $400 the penalties for misdemeanor vandalism under penal code 594 is as follows:
- Up to 1 year in a county jail,
- A maximum fine of $1,000, or up to $5,000 if defendant has prior vandalism conviction,
Penalties for Misdemeanor Vandalism Value is More than $400
If the value of the vandalized and or damaged property is more than $400 the penalties for misdemeanor vandalism under penal code 594 is as follows:
- Up to 1 year in a county jail
- A maximum fine of $10,000, or up to $50,000 in case the total amount of the damaged property was $10,000 or more, and/or
Penalties for Felony Vandalism Penal Code 594
Penalties for felony vandalism under penal code 594 are as follows:
- Up to one year of country jail, or a jail sentence of 16 months, 2 or 3 years
- A maximum fine of $10,000 up to $50,000 in case the total amount of the damaged property was $10,000 or more,
Collateral Consequences Under Vandalism Penal Code 594
Defendant’s driver’s License can be suspended up to 2 years. In case the defendant has no license at the time, the Court can suspend the issuance of the license for up to three years.
Vandalism Penal Code 594 Lawyer
For answers to any other questions you may still have about California Penal Code 594 or to discuss your case confidentially with our team of experienced California criminal defense attorneys, give us a call at (310) 943-1171. Our lawyers in Glendale, Los Angeles County, CA, are highly dedicated to serving the needs of our clients.