Definition and Aspects of Vandalism:
Under California Penal Code 594 (PC 594), it is against the law to maliciously damage, destroy, or deface someone else’s property. Vandalism (PC 594) is a misdemeanor, or in some cases, a felony-level offense that could result in jail time and severe fines.
To be convicted of California Penal Code 594 (PC 594), the Prosecution must prove the following:
- The Defendant maliciously damaged or destroyed property
- The property was owned by someone else
- The damage amounted to:
- Less than $400 for a misdemeanor prosecution
- $400 or more for a felony prosecution
The term ‘maliciously’ refers to the action of knowingly and intentionally committing the act. It does not necessarily mean that the Defendant intended to break the law, just that he/she was aware that they weren’t the property owner in question and intended to mark it.
Damaging or destroying Property under Vandalism (PC 594) is often done by graffiti or other inscribed material. This could mean symbols, words, marks, or designs painted on, etched, scratched into a person’s property other than the Defendant.
This charge could apply to real properties, such as walls, houses, or buildings, and personal properties like cars, furniture, etc.
To violate California Penal Code 594 (PC 594), the damage does not have to be permanent.
Criminal Offenses Related to Vandalism:
Similar or related offenses to California Penal Code 594 (PC 594), Vandalism:
- Vandalizing Places of Worship – California Penal Code 594.3 (PC 594.3)
- Vandalism Involving Caustic Chemicals – California Penal Code 594.4 (PC 594.4)
- Vandalizing on or Near a Freeway – California Penal Code 640.7 & 640.8 (PC 640.7) (PC 640.8)
- Trespassing – California Penal Code 602 (PC 602)
Examples of Vandalism:
A man tags the side of an office building by spray painting the logo and name of his band on it. Because the property does not belong to him and he was aware of his actions, he could be charged with Vandalism (PC 594).
A young college student writes her initials on the school desk with a pencil. While this marking is easily removable with cleaning supplies, she marked up someone else’s property; therefore, she violates California Penal Code 594 (PC 594).
Defenses for Vandalism:
One of the requirements for Vandalism (PC 594) is willingly committing the malicious act. If the Defendant accidentally marked or damaged property, he/she would not be guilty of Vandalism. Keep in mind, other charges or fines might still apply.
False allegations are also quite common for Vandalism (PC 594) charges. Unless there’s explicit recording or other evidence placing the Defendant at the scene of the crime, it is hard to prove that he/she did it. An experienced attorney could help dispute charges based on false allegations.
Consequences and Penalty for Vandalism:
If the property damage is less than $400, California Penal Code 594 (PC 594) is a misdemeanor offense. The penalties can go up to $1,000 in fines with no prior convictions and up to $5,000 if the Defendant has a previous Vandalism (PC 594) charge. Additionally, a maximum jail time of one year is possible. Depending on the details of the crime, the Defendant could be sentenced to probation, which could include license suspension, counseling, and community service.
In the case of Vandalism (PC 594) resulting in property damage of $400 or more, the offense becomes a wobbler. This means it could either be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor, depending on the details of the crime and the history of the Defendant.
If the Defendant causes damages of $400 or more but is charged with a misdemeanor, the penalties include jail time for up to one year, $10,000 in fines, and probation requirements. If the convicted person is a repeat offender, the fines can go up to $50,000.
If the Defendant is charged with a felony, the possible jail sentence is between 16 months – 3 years and fines could be as high as $10,000 for first-time offenders and $50,000 for repeat offenders.
Lastly, if the Defendant has a history of two or more Vandalism (PC 594) convictions, he/she must serve a jail or prison sentence.
Under California Penal Code 594 (PC 594), Vandalism is a misdemeanor offense that can result in jail time and severe fines, and in certain cases, increase to a more serious felony charge. It is essential that if you or someone you know is charged with Vandalism, you contact an expert attorney as soon as possible.
For an experienced attorney on your side, Action Lavitch from Action Defense Lawyers is available 24/7 at (747) DEFEND U or (747) 333-3638. With a proven track record of Vandalism-related cases and speaking English and Spanish, Action Lavitch and the team from Action Defense Lawyers provide skilled legal representation and professional advice. Having an above 90% success rate for clients, Action Defense Lawyers is the go-to for those charged with California Penal Code Section 594 (PC 594), Vandalism. Book a free consultation today.