~ Vandalism ~

The crime of vandalism is defined in Penal Code § 594 and is committed when someone maliciously defaces (alters), damages or destroys property that does not belong to them. This includes making any unauthorized inscription, word, figure or mark on the property, regardless of how it is made, including writing on the property, spray painting it, scratching it, drawing on it or altering it in some other manner. In fact, the mark does not even have to be permanent for the purposes of alleging this crime. If public property is involved, the statute presumes that the property did not belong to the person performing the act and that they did not have permission to deface, damage or destroy it. The statute also makes it clear that if the property is co-owned by someone else, that the crime of vandalism can still occur if the co-owner did not consent to the act.

Vandalism can be charged as either a felony when the property damage exceeds $400 or as a misdemeanor if the property damage is less than $400. As part of the sentence given by the Court, the Court can and often will order the Defendant to clean up, repair or replace the damaged property and can also order that the Defendant work to keep other property in the community free from graffiti for up to one year. In addition to any punishment that is given to the person actually committing the crime, the Court can order that the parents of any minor convicted under this section also participate in graffiti clean-up and prevention as well. Any fines that are assessed to a minor will be payable by their parents or guardians.

It is important to remember that just because the District Attorney values the property damage at one price, the actual damage may be different and the skill of your attorney may mean the difference between being charged or convicted of felony versus misdemeanor vandalism. Also, the statute requires that you act “maliciously,” so if you somehow accidently damage property, you can’t be found guilty of vandalism.

Penal Code § 594 states, in part that:

(a) 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.

Whenever a person violates this subdivision with respect to real property, vehicles, signs, fixtures, furnishings, or property belonging to any public entity, as defined by Section 811.2 of the Government Code, or the federal government, it shall be a permissive inference that the person neither owned the property nor had the permission of the owner to deface, damage, or destroy the property. …

To view the list of crimes by code section (Statute), please click here.

To return to the list of California crimes in alphabetical order, please click here.


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