California Vandalism Laws

Understanding the crime of vandalism in California

It is believed that the crime of vandalism is not serious but even simple “slap on the wrist” can result in potential prison time and criminal record. You should understand that the convicted may face various penalties for violating California vandalism law ranging from one (1) to three (3) years of jail time. However, an experienced and professional attorney may use various defenses under California law in order to reduce or dismiss the charge, including false accusations, the state of insanity, police misconduct, etc. That is why it is crucial to hire an aggressive lawyer who can help you against charges and get the best outcome for you.

Below, The Margarian Law Firm will introduce you the main elements of the California Vandalism Law.
1. Legal Definition of Vandalism under California Penal Code
2. Elements of the Crime of Vandalism in California
3. Legal Defenses to the Vandalism Accusations in California
4. Penalties under California Penal Code Section 594
5. Related Articles
Additionally, we are ready to provide answers to your initial questions concerning vandalism charges in California for free.
You may file your request online, by telephone or by mail. 818-553-1000

1. What is Vandalism under California Law?
California Penal Code 594 PC states that every person who maliciously commits any of the following acts with respect to any real or personal property not his or her own is guilty of vandalism:

  • Defaces with graffiti or other inscribed material,
  • Damages,
  • Destroys.

As defined in California Business and Professional Code Section 594, the term “damages” includes damage caused to any of the following in the course of stealing or attempting to steal nonferrous material:

  • public transit property and facilities,
  • public parks property and facilities,
  • public utilities,
  • and water property and facilities.

2. What Must the Prosecutor Prove in Order to Find the Defendant Guilty of Vandalism in California?
In order to prove that the defendant is guilty of California vandalism, the prosecutor is required to establish the following facts:
– The defendant maliciously “defaced with graffiti or other inscribed material,” damaged, or destroyed property,
– The defendant did not own the property or owned it with someone else,
– The amount of damage caused by the vandalism was:
a) $400 or more,
b) Or less than $400.

3. Legal Defenses to the Vandalism Accusations in California
It can occur that completely innocent people are accused of vandalism in California. Your aggressive defense attorney can use a variety of legal defenses in order to get the best result for you. Below, you can find some of them:

  • False accusations
  • Plea bargain and dismissals
  • State of insanity
  • False confessions
  • Mistaken Identity.

4. Penalties under California Penal Code Section 261
The Margarian Law Firm attorneys explain that vandalism is considered to be a “wobbler,” that is to say it can be tried either as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the property damage cost. It should be taken into consideration that pursuant to California Penal Code 640.5 and 640.6 PC if the damage is less than $250, the person can be charged with vandalism as an infraction. The charge is decided on discretion of the prosecution.
In order to better understand the incrimination of the crime depending on the property damage cost and the personality of the offender, we invite you to have a look at the following table:

Punishment for Vandalism in California
Value of the property/Worth of damages Crime Penalty
Jail Time Fine Other Possible Penalties
<400 Misdemeanor Up to 1 year
  • $1.000
  • Up to $5,000 fine for any subsequent conviction
  • Informal probation
  • Up to a 2 year suspension on the offender’s driving license
  • Community service
$400-$10,000 Misdemeanor Up to 1 year $10.000
  • Informal probation
  • Up to a 2 year suspension on the offender’s driving license
  • Community service
$400-$10,000 Felony Up to 3 years $10.000
  • If granted probation you will face:
  • Up to a 2 year suspension on your drivers license
  • Mandatory counseling
  • Community service
More than $10,000 Misdemeanor or Felony Up to 1 year $50,000
  • Suspension on your drivers license
  • Mandatory counseling
  • Community service

Have you or a loved one been charged with vandalism in California? The Margarian Law Firm aggressively protects the rights of criminal defendants in California. If you have faced accusations of vandalism in California, it is essential to contact an experienced California defense attorney who will provide legal assistance. We handle every aspect of your case, from the very start through the very last court hearing, all for a flat fee agreed upon before we begin.
You may file your request online, by telephone or by mail. 818-553-1000

Copyright © 2014 The Margarian Law Firm. All Rights Reserved.