Vandalism California Penal Code 594

Most of us are taught from an early age to respect other people's property. But, for those of us who have not learned this lesson, the California Penal Code has the criminal offense of vandalism.

Property crimes like vandalism are very common criminal charges in California and often result in harsh penalties. However, there are a number of defenses that apply in these types of cases.

So, before pleading guilty and exposing yourself to harsh penalties, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can explain what options, consequences and defenses you have to a vandalism charge. 

The California criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian have years of experience representing those charged with vandalism and other property crimes in Southern California. 

Call us today at 855-918-4253 to discuss your case and to learn more about how we can help.

California Penal Code 594: Vandalism 

Under California Penal Code 594, anyone who maliciously damages, destroys, or writes graffiti on someone else's property has committed vandalism. Examples of vandalism include:

  • Keying someone's car; 

  • Slashing tires; 

  • Throwing rocks through someone's window; 

  • Egging someone's car or home 

  • Spraying or writing graffiti on the side of a building or other edifice 

Any of these activities, and others of a similar nature, can give rise to a vandalism charge in California and expose you to stiff fines and the possibility of incarceration. But, in order to convict you of the offense, the prosecutor must prove that:

  1. The act was malicious - meaning that you did it intentionally to annoy, injure, or cause the owner to suffer a loss;

  2. You destroyed or damaged property, or defaced it with graffiti; and

  3. The property belonged to someone else

In addition, each of these elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Penalties For Vandalism in California

Vandalism in California is a “wobbler”, meaning that the severity of the offense will typically depend on the nature of the act and the degree of damage that was done to the victim's property.

The various categories of penalties under CPC 594 can be broken down as follows:

  1. Misdemeanor Vandalism (w/ damages <$400) - if convicted of vandalism resulting in less than $400 worth of damage, you will be looking at up to 1 year in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $1000. 

  1. Misdemeanor Vandalism (w/prior convictions) - if convicted of vandalism resulting in less than $400 worth of damage, and you have prior convictions for vandalism, you will be facing up to 1 year in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

  1. Misdemeanor Vandalism (w/ damages $400>$10,000) - if convicted of vandalism resulting in at least $400, but less than $10,000 worth of damage, you can be sentenced to up to 1 year in the county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. 

  1. Felony Vandalism - vandalism resulting in damage worth $10,000 or more is punishable by up to 3 years in state prison served in the county jail and/or a fine of up to $50,000.

In addition, whether you are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, you may also be required to make restitution to the victim by cleaning up, fixing, repairing, or replacing the damage that you caused to their property in addition to the court ordering your driving privilege suspended for up to 2 years.  Moreover, if the perpetrator is a minor, his or her parents may be held responsible for any fines or restitution ordered by the court. 

Defending a Vandalism Charge In California

Common defenses to vandalism in California include: 

  • Lack of willful or malicious intent - you never intended to deface or damage the alleged victim’s property 

  • Mistaken identity - it wasn't you who vandalized the property 

  • No criminal offense was committed - perhaps you are, in fact, the owner of the property in question, or had permission from the owner to do what you did to their property.

What’s more, in some cases, the value of the damage done will be questioned and you may have a defense in that regard. When this is the case, a skilled attorney may be able to get a felony vandalism charge reduced to a misdemeanor. 

Whatever the circumstances, consulting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to find out what your options are will be in your best interest.

Contact The Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian

It is important that you have expert legal counsel when facing any criminal charge, be it a misdemeanor or felony. As your attorneys, we will fight to have the charges against you dropped, reduced, or to have the case dismissed. 

If you have been charged with vandalism in California, do not hesitate to contact The Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian at 855-918-4253 or contact us here online to request a free consultation with an experienced Southern California criminal defense attorney.