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Under California Penal Code 594(a), Every person who damages, destroys, or defaces with graffiti any real or personal property, not his or her own, is guilty of vandalism. This crime is a wobbler, meaning it could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the amount of damage, and according to defendant’s criminal history or prior convictions for the same crime.

Felony Vandalism

If the amount of damage is $400 or more, vandalism is punishable by jail for up to 3 years and/or by a maximum of $50,000 fine.

Misdemeanor Vandalism

If the amount of damage is less than $400, defendant may receive up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine not to exceed $1,000.

Vandalism committed by Juveniles

If a minor is found in violation of Penal Code 594 and is personally unable to pay a fine, the parent of that minor shall be liable for payment of the fine. A court may waive payment of the fine by the parent upon a finding of good cause. The court may also order counseling or have the minor perform community service or graffiti removal.

Defenses to Vandalism

We have been very successful in defending vandalism charges for our clients in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange county courts. The most common defense is that the property damaged was your own. You can’t legally vandalize your own property. So, if it can be shown that the property damaged did not belong to another person, you are not guilty of vandalism.

Another defense is that you didn’t intend to damage the property. So, if the damage to someone’s property occurred as a result of an unfortunate accident, there is no criminal intent and there is no crime. We have defended many vandalism charges on the basis of lack of intent to damage or destroy.

A third possibility to defend a vandalism charge is “mistake of fact”. For instance if you tried to get into a car that looked identical to yours and in the process, you damaged the lock, you are not guilty of vandalism. If you can show that you honestly and reasonably believed that the car was yours and you were trying to get into your own car, you have a valid defense of honest mistake that negates criminal intent.

Lastly, if there is no proof that you were the one who damaged the property in question, there is insufficient evidence as to the identity of the perpetrator. For instance, if the only evidence against you is a surveillance video footage which is not conclusive to identify the person committing the crime, we can prove to the court or the jury that there is a reasonable doubt as to the identity of the suspect and you should be found not guilty.

Restitution in Vandalism Cases

Conviction of a felony vandalism could have severe financial consequences if you are ordered by the court to pay restitution to the alleged victim in a large sum. We can help you tremendously by conducting a restitution hearing and challenging the amount that he victim is seeking in restitution. Preparation is the key in winning restitution hearings. It is not uncommon for the victims to be coached to ask for excessive amounts unrelated to the crime. Your defense lawyer will cover all angles to make sure that you are not ordered to pay the victim more than what is fair and equitable.

If you have been charged with misdemeanor or felony vandalism, contact us so that we may present all possible defenses on your behalf in a professional and legal manner.

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