Successful Defense Against Vandalism Charges in California

Riverside Vandalism Attorney

Riverside LawyerIf you think of vandalism as a relatively harmless and meaningless offense, you need to think again. Whether it’s spray painting someone’s property, slashing their tires, keying (scratching) their vehicles, filling locks with glue or something else along those lines, you could be facing either misdemeanor or felony charges.

Here, we’ll talk about:

  • what California law says about vandalism;
  • the types of charges you could be facing;
  • the possible penalties associated with vandalism charges;
  • why you need a skilled defense attorney on your side if you’re facing charges of vandalism; and
  • examples of successful defense strategies in cases involving vandalism charges.

What is vandalism?
California law says that “every person who maliciously (defaces with graffiti or other inscribed material, damages or destroys) any real or personal property not his or her own, in cases other than those specified by state law, is guilty of vandalism.”

The alleged damage does not have to be permanent in order to trigger the vandalism charges.

In other words, if it’s not yours, you can’t write or paint on it, damage it or destroy it. Even if you co-own the property that was allegedly damaged, you cannot damage or destroy it without consent from the co-owner.

What’s the penalty for vandalism in California?
Vandalism is a wobbler charge in California, meaning that you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony in association with charges of vandalism.

If the damages proven to have been caused by you costs less than $400 to repair, your charges will likely be limited to a misdemeanor with potential penalties of:

  • one (1) year in county jail;
  • a fine of $1,000 if this is your first vandalism conviction – or additional fines of up to $5,000 if you have previous vandalism convictions; and
  • probation.

If it will cost more than $400 to repair the damage, you could still be charged with a misdemeanor, but the prosecutor could change it to a felony based upon the individual circumstances of the case and whether or not you have a criminal history. If the prosecutor does proceed with felony charges, you could be facing:

  • one (1) year in county jail;
  • fines of $10,000 – $50,000 if the damage will cost $10,000 to repair; and
  • probation.

Keep in mind that the probation portion of your penalty is no walk in the park. It can require suspension of your driver’s license and community service.

Other Charges Associated With Vandalism

By its nature, committing an act of vandalism could put you at risk of other charges, including:

  • trespassing (entering property owned by someone else);
  • burglary (if you enter a place that’s meant to be inhabited, you’ve committed burglary); and
  • invasion of privacy.

How can my guilt be proven in a courtroom?

In order for you to be proven guilty of vandalism in California, it’s the job of the prosecutor to prove without doubt that:

  • you maliciously defaced, damaged or destroyed someone else’s property (the word “malicious” means that you intended to cause the damage);
  • you do not own the property; and
  • that the amount of damage caused by you is less than $400 (for a misdemeanor charge) or more than $400 (for a possible felony charge.

If either of these components cannot be proven beyond doubt, you will not be charged with vandalism.

Can my vandalism charge be expunged from my record?
Having a charge like vandalism expunged from your record is certainly well worth the effort. Future employers, for example, could view the charge as a signal that you are not to be trusted.

In California, thankfully, vandalism is a charge that is eligible to be expunged. This is possible if your cases is either a misdemeanor or a felony. However, there are a host of things that a judge will consider before granting the motion. For example, you must complete every component of your probationary requirements.

What are examples of successful defenses to vandalism charges in California?

The pathway to having your charges dismissed altogether or having the potential penalties significantly reduced is lit by having a skilled California defense lawyer on your side and looking out for your best interests. Once all aspects of your case have been thoroughly examined, a strategy for success will be put in place.

There are a host of defense strategies which have been deployed in the courtroom to effectively refute charges of vandalism.

  • You were acting unintentionally.

If the property of the alleged victim was damaged unintentionally, then the threshold of “malicious” intent can be challenged.

  • The property that was damaged actually belonged to you.
    If ownership of the damaged property can be secured by you, then there is no victim of vandalism in your case.
  • The property owner gave you consent.
    If the damage to the property was done with the alleged victim’s permission and knowledge, you’re not guilty of vandalism. For example, if you were given permission by your landlord to make certain specified renovations in your home, that landlord cannot later come back with charges of vandalism.
  • It wasn’t you.
    If, for example, you were misidentified from a group of people who were tagging (painting) a building, railcar, home, etc., or were in a group of youngsters throwing eggs on Halloween, the defense can build a strategy based upon mistaken identity.
  • It’s a domestic relationship issue.
    Charges of vandalism stemming from domestic relationship issues are common. Examples include broken dishes, slashed tires, keyed cars, etc. If the person bringing the charges has filed similar charges previously, it could be argued that person is the one actually committing the actions.

If you’ve facing charges for vandalism in Riverside or the Los Angeles area, call Sharp Criminal Lawyers.

Vandalism charges may not seem like a big deal at first thought, but from reading the information above, it’s obvious that they are indeed a serious matter.

With the skilled attorneys at Sharp Criminal Lawyers, you’ll be in a much better position of getting your life back on track with minimal consequences.

Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for free legal info by phone at 951-777-1111.

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