Vandalism laws exist to protect property owners. Even minor acts of vandalism can carry heavy penalties in California. If you are facing a vandalism charge, it is important to be aware of the potential consequences you could be facing, as well as the possible defenses you can use to protect yourself.
When facing a vandalism charge, the best thing that you can do to protect yourself is to hire vandalism lawyers in Lakewood, CA, with experience defending clients against these charges. We may be able to get your charges reduced or dropped altogether, depending on the specifics of your case.
In California, vandalism falls under Penal Code 594. This statute defines vandalism as maliciously damaging, destroying, or defacing another person’s property. The severity of vandalism charges can vary greatly. They can be something as mild as writing your name in wet cement on public property to something serious like destroying a car.
For a free legal consultation with a vandalism lawyer serving Lakewood, call (310) 896-2723
Vandalism Is a “Wobbler”
The charges and penalties for a vandalism case largely depend upon the amount of damage that was done. The important figure to keep in mind is $400. If the resulting cost of an act of vandalism is less than $400, then it is considered misdemeanor vandalism.
However, if the damage is greater than $400, it can either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Whether the charge will be raised from a misdemeanor to a felony depends on a variety of factors, including:
- The extent of the damage
- Whether you have any prior convictions
- Whether other crimes were committed in connection with the vandalism
Lakewood Vandalism Lawyer Near Me (310) 896-2723
Penalties for Vandalism in Lakewood, CA
Whether you face misdemeanor or felony vandalism charges, it is important to keep in mind that even a conviction for a minor vandalism offense can carry serious consequences. A Lakewood vandalism attorney can help protect you when you are looking at a vandalism charge.
A charge of misdemeanor vandalism carries a maximum penalty of one year in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
A felony charge for vandalism carries a maximum sentence of up to three years in county jail. Fines associated with felony vandalism are generally capped at $10,000. However, in cases where the damage is particularly high, that amount can be increased.
What a Prosecutor Must Prove to Convict
There are several elements that a prosecutor must prove in order to convict a defendant of an act of vandalism.
Defendant Defaced, Damaged or Destroyed Property
To convict a person accused of vandalism in court, the prosecution must prove that they defaced, damaged, or destroyed property. When it comes to defacing property, the damage does not even have to be permanent.
Spray painting a wall is vandalism that often requires significant time and money to paint over it. At the same time, writing on glass with a non-permanent marker can also be vandalism, even if all it takes to remove it is a few seconds with a wet rag.
Defendant Did Not Solely Own the Property in Question
In addition to proving that the defendant committed the act of defacing, damaging, or destroying property, the prosecution must also prove that the property in question does not belong solely to the accused.
In most cases, it is very easy to do this, especially if the property in question is public property. However, where it can really get tricky is if the defendant owns the property along with someone else. If the person with whom they share the property has a problem with what they have done, they could face a charge of vandalism.
Defendant Acted Maliciously
Another key element of California vandalism laws is that in order to have committed an act of vandalism, the perpetrator had to act maliciously. In the legal sense, that means that they either had to intentionally commit an act of vandalism or have the intent to annoy or injure another person.
If a person accidentally committed an act that defaced, damaged, or destroyed someone’s property, they are not guilty of vandalism in Lakewood, California.
The Financial Cost of the Damage
If the prosecutor is attempting to convict an individual of felony vandalism, they must also prove that the costs to restore, repair, or replace the item in question amount to more than $400.
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Defenses Against a Vandalism Charge
When accused of committing an act of vandalism in Lakewood, California, there are several possible defense tactics that your vandalism attorney can argue. A few of the most common defenses used in vandalism cases are:
- False accusations
- Mistaken identity
- Accidental damage
Unfortunately, false accusations are quite common, with vandalism charges. People often commit acts of vandalism and then blame others.
Sometimes people intentionally commit an act of vandalism with the aim of framing another person for the crime as an act of revenge or with some alternative motive to hurt the person they are accusing. In other situations, a person makes a false accusation in an attempt to hide their own guilt.
Another common defense in vandalism cases is mistaken identity. Mistaken identity can occur in a variety of ways. One of the most common forms of mistaken identity in a vandalism case is when an innocent individual matches the description of the true perpetrator of the crime.
A person may mistakenly accuse another of vandalism not because they saw the crime but because the two individuals have a contentious relationship. Another possibility is that a person was seen with those who did commit the vandalism near the time of the incident, even though they were not personally involved.
The other most common defense is that you were the one who did the damage in question, but that damage was the result of an accident, not malicious intent.
Protect Yourself From a Vandalism Charge
The best thing you can do to protect yourself from a vandalism charge is to hire legal representation. A Lakewood, California vandalism lawyer can help build your defense and represent your interests in court.
The attorneys at the Simmrin Law Group are available to help if you have been arrested on a vandalism charge. Call us today or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.