San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Francisco

Vandalism can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If convicted of vandalism, you could lose your license to drive, be required to do community service, or you could even face imprisonment. The court may also order that a person convicted of vandalism enroll in counseling, clean up or repair anything that was damaged, complete community service and pay restitution. Increased penalties may apply if the target of the crime was due to race, religion or nationality. Vandalism charges in California vary in severity depending on the situation and those affected.

What the Prosecutor Must Prove for a Vandalism Conviction

For a vandalism conviction, the prosecutor must prove three things:

  1. You defaced, damaged, or destroyed another person’s property
  2. You did so maliciously, and
  3. The amount of defacement, damage, or destruction was either less than $400 in a misdemeanor prosecution or $400 or more in a felony prosecution.

Defacement, damage, or destruction of another person’s property

Defacement need not be permanent, it only need be unauthorized—so writing an insult in lipstick on a bathroom mirror could be considered vandalism. It does not matter whether the property was real property (land, a building, a home) or personal property (a couch, cell phone, car, etc.). If the alleged vandalism was to public property, the court is allowed to presume that you neither owned the property nor had permission to deface, damage, or destroy it. If you own the property jointly with another person (such as a spouse), you can still be convicted of vandalizing the property since it technically belongs to both of you.


In this context, acting “maliciously” means that you either wished to annoy or injure another person or intentionally committed a wrongful act. In other words, accidental defacement, damage to, or destruction of another person’s property is not vandalism.

Amount of Damage

The prosecutor will often look to the cost to repair or replace the vandalized property. You can dispute the prosecutor’s valuation of the property destruction. Even if you have been charged with felony vandalism, the jury can reduce the charge to misdemeanor vandalism if they are not convicted that the damage exceeds $400.

Contact Attorney Thomas Greenberg

In vandalism cases, it is especially important to get a criminal defense attorney involved early. Attorney Thomas Greenberg has extensive experience representing clients facing vandalism charges. He can work to negotiate with the alleged victim and get the case dismissed, or to prevent filing by the district attorney. Particularly when the dollar value amounts are small, contacting the district attorney’s office can make a significant difference in your case. If you have been arrested for vandalism, the legal services of San Mateo County criminal defense attorney Thomas Greenberg can be indispensable.