Vandalism – California Penal Code Section 594 PC

California Penal Code Section 594 PC deals with vandalism and makes it a crime for a person to maliciously damage, destroy, or deface another person’s property. The prosecution has the discretion to charge vandalism as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances of each case. For example, if you key your ex-boyfriend’s car or break your boyfriend’s laptop while having a fight, you can be charged with vandalism.

Whether you have been charged with misdemeanor vandalism or felony vandalism, you should contact an experienced vandalism defense attorney to represent you and keep you from going to jail or prison. Our attorneys have the knowledge and experience to achieve the best possible results for you. Schedule your free consultation today by filling out the contact form below or by calling us at 1 (213) 370-0404.

Text of the Vandalism Statute under California Penal Code Section 594 PC

According to the California Penal Code 594 PC, “Every person who maliciously commits any of the following acts with respect to any real or personal property not his or her own, in cases other than those specified by state law, is guilty of vandalism: (1) Defaces with graffiti or other inscribed material. (2) Damages. (3) Destroys.”

The code section goes on to add that: “If the amount of defacement, damage, or destruction is four hundred dollars ($400) or more, vandalism is punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine of not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or if the amount of defacement, damage, or destruction is ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or more, by a fine of not more than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.”

Also, 594(a)(2)(A) adds that: “If the amount of defacement, damage, or destruction is less than four hundred dollars ($400), vandalism is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.

Penalties for a Conviction of Vandalism Under PC 549

In California, the prosecution has the discretion to charge vandalism as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Whether the prosecution brings misdemeanor vandalism charges or felony vandalism charges depends on the dollar amount of the damage caused by the defendant.

If the damage caused by the defendant amounts to $400 or more, the prosecution has the discretion to charge it as either a misdemeanor or a felony. However, if the damage caused by the defendant amounts to less than $400, the prosecution brings misdemeanor charges against the defendant.

Penalties for Felony Vandalism

  • Conviction of a felony offense
  • One to three years in county jail
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Placement on formal felony probation
  • Performance of community service

Penalties for Misdemeanor Vandalism

  • Conviction of a misdemeanor offense
  • Up to one year in county jail
  • A fine of up to $1000
  • Placement on informal misdemeanor summary probation
  • Performance of community service

Defenses for a Vandalism Charge under CPC 594

If you have been charged with vandalism, there are a variety of defenses that your attorney can make to defend you. The defenses in this list are some of the defenses that may be available to you. This list is not exhaustive of all defenses that may apply to your case. To determine which defenses apply to you, you should consult with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys.

  • You did not cause damage to another person’s property
  • You damaged another person’s property, but you did so accidentally
  • You’re falsely being accused of vandalism or damaging another’s property
  • You are a victim of mistaken identity

Proving a Person Guilty of Committing Vandalism Under Penal Code 594 PC

For the prosecution to prove a person guilty of committing vandalism, it must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution fails to prove even one element, it will not be able to convict the defendant of vandalism. Here are the elements the prosecution needs to prove:

  • The defendant used graffiti or other material to deface a building, the defendant damaged another person’s property, or the defendant destroyed another person’s property, AND
  • The defendant did not own the property he defaced, damaged, or destroyed, or he was only a part-owner of the property

Note: If the value of the property damaged exceeds $400, the prosecutor can charge the vandalism as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The prosecutor’s decision will likely be based on the defendant’s previous criminal history, the dollar amount of the damage he caused, and whether he has been convicted of vandalism in the past. That said, if the damage caused by the defendant is valued at less than $400, the prosecution usually brings misdemeanor charges.

Examples of Committing Vandalism

A man is driving home in traffic, he’s angry and a woman behind him keeps honking at him to drive faster. The man gets out of his car and smashes the windshield of her BMW. She gets the windshield replaced for $1200. The man can be charged with and convicted of felony vandalism because the windshield of her BMW costs more than $400.

A man loves painting graffiti. One night he paints graffiti on the door of a local restaurant in Los Angeles. The restaurant owner pays $350 to have the graffiti removed and the door restored. The man can be charged with misdemeanor vandalism because he defaced another person’s building by covering the door with graffiti.

A man and his wife are having a heated argument. The man picks up his living room TV and throws it on the floor, destroying it. The man can be charged with vandalism because he destroyed property that is owned jointly by him and his wife.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with vandalism, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at The H Law Group. Our attorneys have the knowledge and experience to mitigate the potential consequences that you face. We have successfully represented hundreds of clients, so rest assured that your future is in good hands. Schedule your free consultation today by filling out the contact form below or by calling us at 1 (213) 370-0404.

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