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California Penal Code 594 PC defines vandalism as the intentional, malicious act of destroying another person’s property. To find a person guilty of vandalism, the state must prove each of the three elements of the offense. The elements of vandalism are:
Someone intentionally and maliciously defaced with graffiti or other inscribed material, the property of another and caused the property to be damaged or destroyed;
The person did not own the property that they damaged or destroyed; and
The value of the property damage was less than $400 for a misdemeanor offense and greater than or equal to $400 for a felony vandalism charge. 
Although it seems that vandalism is straightforward, the language in the California laws may be confusing. It’s critical to understand the definitions of some of the words used in the statute.
What Does Inscribed Material Mean?
The law mentions “inscribed materials.” Inscribed materials refer to any mark made on a material. Marks include words, figures, designs, etches, scratches, drawings, paintings, or other markings. In the context of vandalism, any of these marks, figures, designs, etches, scratches, drawings, paintings, or words that are placed on a person’s real property or personal property is against the law.
Real property means any property that cannot be moved. For example, real property includes houses and land. Personal property is any other property. It is against the law to deface another person’s real or personal property.
Is Vandalism A Felony?
Like many crimes, whether a person who committed vandalism is charged with a felony or a misdemeanor depends on the severity of the harm. In California, if a person commits vandalism and the amount of damage is less than $400, they will be charged with a misdemeanor. If a person commits vandalism and the damage is greater than or equal to $400, the person will be charged with a felony.
What Are The Penalties For Vandalism In California?
Although many states have similar criminal actions on their books, each state may impose its own penalty for criminal actions. In California, the penalty for vandalism depends on whether you are charged with misdemeanor or felony vandalism. Misdemeanor or felony status depends on the property’s value, as discussed above.
If a person is charged with a misdemeanor, meaning that the value of the property damaged or destroyed is less than $400, they will face potential punishment of 364 days (11 months and 29 days) in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000. If you are charged with a felony vandalism charge, you will face a punishment of three years in state prison or a $50,000 fine, or both. If you are convicted of vandalism multiple times, your punishment may be more severe than the previous conviction. A second or subsequent vandalism offense can cause more jail time, a higher fine, or a combination of punishments.
Vandalism Second Offense
If you have been previously convicted of vandalism once before and are subsequently charged with vandalism involving graffiti, then your potential punishments change. You will face a potential punishment of:
There are specialized types of vandalism. These are considered worse forms of vandalism under California law because of the types of property that are damaged. The following has been determined to be specialized vandalism across California law:
Vandalism on places of worship
In California, a person who vandalizes a place of worship faces the following punishment:
Up to one year of jail time
Up to $1,000 fine
Possible sentence to probation after jail time is served 
If you are charged with felony vandalism, then you are subject to the following potential punishments:
Sixteen months up to two to three years of jail time
Caustic materials are corrosive materials used to damage or destroy another substance or material. Vandalism using a caustic chemical is a misdemeanor in California. The punishment for committing this crime includes:
Up to six months in county jail for a felony offense. If the vandalism was a second or subsequent offense, you might face two to three years in county jail.
A fine that ranges from $1,000 up to $50,000
Vandalizing on or near a highway or freeway
Vandalism on or near a highway or freeway is a specialized vandalism charge in California. The punishment for vandalism on or near a highway or freeway is:
Up to six months in county jail for a first conviction
Up to a $50,000 fine
Counseling or community service
It can be confusing and overwhelming to know what steps to take after being charged with vandalism. After being charged, the best first step to take is to contact an attorney. An attorney experienced in criminal defense will know the best way to get the best results for you. Finding the right attorney may also seem like an uphill battle. Call the attorneys at My Rights Law at (888) 702-8882 to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced and skilled attorneys.
Are There Defenses To Vandalism?
Like many other crimes, there are certain defenses to vandalism. Some examples of defenses to vandalism are:
Consent of the owner
Mistaken identity of the accused
The property owner falsely accused the defendant
Damage was caused by accident or unintentionally
The defendant damaged their own property
The property owner consented to the vandalism
My Rights Law California Vandalism Lawyer
Vandalism in Los Angeles is a form of property crime that involves damaging or destroying the property of another. Vandalism is usually done willfully, so defending against vandalism charges will usually require the assistance of a criminal defense attorney.
If there is sufficient evidence of a crime, the police will forward the case to the District Attorney’s office to prosecute the person who allegedly committed the vandalism.
All fifty states and the federal government have strict punishments for those who damage or destroy the property of others. Vandalism can be penalized as either felony charges or as misdemeanor vandalism, depending on the monetary value of the damage, age of the defendant, and other factors, such as gang association. If you are charged with vandalism, get in touch with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you potentially avoid severe fines and/or prison time.
If you are accused of vandalism, you should speak to a Los Angeles vandalism attorney who knows the legal system and who can apprise you of your rights and your defenses.
When Should I Get An Attorney?
If you have been charged with any crime, you should get an attorney. Attorneys help protect your rights in a court of law. It is essential to have a person that is experienced and knowledgeable in criminal defense to help you understand what moves you should make in a court, with a prosecutor, and in front of a jury. Being alone during this process can put your life and freedom in jeopardy.
Call the California vandalism lawyers at My Rights Law at (888) 702-8882 today or contact us through our secure web form to schedule a free consultation if you have been charged with a crime in California. We are passionate about protecting defendants’ rights, and we want to advocate for you. We look forward to hearing your story and speaking with you about how we can help.
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