Vandalism is one of those crimes just about everyone has done at one point or another —whether it involved drawing on a desk in high school, doodling on a bus poster, or something more drastic like spray painting your name across a wall. But just because vandalism is common doesn’t mean it’s a criminal charge you should take lightly. Anyone charged with vandalism in San Diego County should immediately contact Vista criminal defense lawyer Peter Liss to start deciding on the best defense strategy for their situation.
What is Vandalism Under California Criminal Law?
Vandalism isn’t limited to graffiti, although that’s one of the most common types of vandalism. Any destruction to another person’s property falls under the scope of this law. That means keying someone’s car, breaking a store window, knocking over a gravestone, or defacing a movie theater poster are all considered vandalism. You can also face vandalism charges for damaging property during a hit and run.
Damaging property in a home you share with a spouse will be treated as domestic violence vandalism if it involves community property. This very specific type of vandalism charge requires a lawyer experienced in fighting both domestic violence and property damage allegations in San Diego.
Vandalism Penalties Under 594 (PC)
If you have not been previously convicted of vandalism and the damage will cost under $400 to repair, you will only be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, fines, community service, and up to 3 years of probation. If the damage will cost more than that to fix, or if you have a prior conviction, you will face felony charges. Felony vandalism convictions may result in jail or prison time, up to $10,000 in fines, and community service. No matter how serious the allegations, you may be required to pay restitution to the victim and a one-year suspension of your driver’s license.
In some cases, a San Diego criminal defense attorney could get a felony property damage charge knocked back down to a misdemeanor if the value of the damaged property is close to but just over $400. He may also be able to have the charges dropped altogether if you fix the damage and the property owner states that they don’t want to press charges. While the decision will ultimately be up to the District Attorney, they will often drop the case if the victim is satisfied that their property has been repaired.
In some cases, the prosecution may push for a misdemeanor charge to be elevated to a felony if they believe it was a hate crime or a gang-related activity. If the offense was already a felony, the sentence could be increased by three years for a hate crime and four years for a gang crime. Additionally, felony gang crimes count as strike under California’s three strikes rule. Anyone arrested for vandalism in San Diego County should immediately contact an experienced Vista vandalism attorney like Peter M. Liss.
If you are the parent of a minor who has been charged with this crime, the law may hold you liable for the fines incurred by your child’s actions. That is why you need a San Diego juvenile crime lawyer to help defend your son or daughter from the accusations against them.
Please call San Diego vandalism attorney Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation where you can discuss your case.