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Vandalism (PC 594, PC 640.5, PC 640.6) is the defacing, destruction, or damage of the property of another. Many people think of vandalism as a crime only committed by teenagers or gang members. However, kicking a door or knocking over a potted plant could be considered vandalism in California. If you have been arrested for vandalism, the district attorney may also decide to add charges of trespass (PC 602) or possibly a gang enhancement (PC 186.22), burglary (PC 459), or arson (PC 451). Vandalism is also often a charge added later, such as in domestic violence cases. There are many defenses for vandalism charges, depending on the situation.
The Charge, Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing
Vandalism may be charged as an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony.
PC 640.5 or PC 640.6: An Infraction or Misdemeanor Vandalism
Where the cost of damage was less than $250, the offense was defacing property (such as graffiti), and you have no prior convictions for vandalism, the prosecutor has discretion to charge you with an infraction (PC 640.5) or a misdemeanor (PC 640.5(b)(1) or PC 640.6), If you have a prior conviction for vandalism, you will be charged with a misdemeanor.
An infraction under PC 640.5 exposes you to a maximum $1,000 fine and community service (the court may require you to participate in a Graffiti Abatement program). A misdemeanor conviction under PC 640.5 is punishable by imprisonment in county jail not to exceed six months, by a fine not to exceed $2,000, or by both that imprisonment and fine. In addition, as a condition of probation, the court must order a minimum of 96 hours of community service.
PC 594: Felony of Misdemeanor Vandalism
Vandalism is charged as a misdemeanor under PC 594 where the value of damage is less than $400. A conviction for PC 594 is punishable by up to a year in county jail, a maximum fine of $1,000 (or up to $5,000 if you have a prior vandalism conviction), suspension of your driver’s license, community service, informal probation, and counseling services.
Where the amount of property damage, defacement, or destruction is $400 or more, prosecutors have discretion to charge PC 594 as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Prosecutors base this determination on the circumstances of the case and your criminal history. Felony vandalism is punishable by imprisonment in state prison or county jail not exceeding one year, by a fine of not more than $10,000, or by both fine and imprisonment, as well as the probation conditions listed under misdemeanor PC 594.
PC 594.3 Vandalism of a Church, Synagogue, Mosque, Temple, Religious Educational Institution, or Any Other Place of Worship
Vandalism of a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, religious educational institution, or any other place of worship may be prosecuted as either a felony or a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in state prison or imprisonment in county jail for no longer than one year. Where the prosecutor believes he prove that the act was a hate crime and committed for the purpose of intimidating and deterring people from freely exercising their religious beliefs, the prosecutor will almost certainly bring the charge as a felony.
PC 594.4: Vandalism of a Structure by Any Noxious or Caustic Chemicals
Vandalism of a house or any building being used as a house or for commercial purposes by any noxious or caustic chemical, such as by throwing butyric acid, may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in state prison or county jail, or both.
In California, the prosecutor must prove three aspects to seek conviction of vandalism against you: 1) Defacement 2) Malice 3) Amount of Damage. Time is important in forming the case for your defense, and you should contact Attorney Thomas Greenberg immediately to learn your options. Call now to set an appointment!