Property vandalism in Los Angeles has become a serious concern in recent years, and a desire to put a stop to graffiti and other types of vandalism in and around the city means prosecutors often seek maximum penalties in such cases. Even an act as seemingly minor as vandalism can result in a felony conviction with long-lasting consequences that can adversely affect the rest of your life, including leaving you with a felony criminal record. If you are facing vandalism charges in Los Angeles, don’t hesitate to hire a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can help you fight to protect your future and minimize the consequences of your property vandalism arrest. Our lawyers at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles are dedicated to protecting the Constitutional rights of each and every one of our clients, and we will fight aggressively to build a strong defense in your case. We have a comprehensive understanding of the California criminal justice system, and we know what defense strategies work best in property vandalism cases. For a free initial property vandalism consultation, contact our legal team at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today by calling (213) 205-3100.
Affordable Property Vandalism Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
Make no mistake, the police and the prosecutor assigned to your vandalism case will do everything in their power to get a conviction and it is the job of a good criminal defense attorney to help clients avoid this outcome. Too often, innocent people are charged with – and wrongfully convicted of – crimes that carry heavy, lasting criminal consequences, simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Our defense lawyers at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles understand that your freedom and your future are on the line, and we will use every resource at our disposal to develop an effective defense that makes it difficult for the prosecutor to meet his or her burden of proof. Our goal for every client is to reach a favorable conclusion to the criminal case, whether that means getting the penalties reduced or avoiding a criminal record. In many cases, we can negotiate with the prosecution to secure a dismissal or reduction of the criminal charges, or an alternative sentencing agreement in lieu of jail time.
In the state of California, it is considered a crime to maliciously destroy, damage or deface another person’s property with graffiti or other inscribed material (writing, marking, drawing, painting, scratching or etching) and this law includes both real property – land, a person’s home or commercial building – and personal property – a car, furniture, clothing, etc. According to the law, the “malicious intent” requirement of California Penal Code § 594 PC property vandalism means, in order to be convicted of the crime, the defendant must have deliberately damaged or destroyed the property with the intent to annoy or injure the property owner. If for some reason you decide to break your own window or graffiti the fence at your own house, you cannot be charged with vandalism because the property belongs to you, not to someone else.
California Penal Code § 594 PC also prohibits the vandalism of property belonging to a public entity, such as a bridge or street sign, and the law assumes that when this act occurs, the defendant did not have permission to destroy or deface the property. Some common examples of California vandalism include throwing rocks at a neighbor’s window, keying another person’s car, carving your initials into a tree or park bench, slashing the tires of another person’s car, and spray painting an image on a public bridge. Some offenses related to Penal Code § 594 PC property vandalism include Penal Code § 602 PC trespass, Penal Code § 451 PC arson, Penal Code § 459 PC burglary, and Penal Code § 591 PC damaging a telephone or electrical line.
Conviction for Property Vandalism Penal Code § 594
Just because you have been arrested for property vandalism does not automatically mean you will be convicted of the crime. It is the duty of the prosecutor assigned to your case to prove each element of the criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt in order to get a property vandalism conviction in Los Angeles. This means establishing that:
- You damaged or destroyed property, or used graffiti or other inscribed material to deface the property;
- You had malicious intent; and
- The property did not belong to you.
Penalties for a Property Vandalism Conviction
The crime of property vandalism can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony offense in Los Angeles, a distinction that depends a great deal on the severity of the crime, meaning the extent of the damage you allegedly caused. In most cases, vandalism causing less than $400 worth of property damage is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. However, if you cause more than $400 worth of damage, or if you have a prior vandalism conviction and you are charged with a subsequent act of vandalism, the crime could be prosecuted as a felony, punishable by up to three years in jail and/or up to $10,000 in fines (or up to $50,000 if the amount of damage was $10,000 or more). Additional penalties resulting from a Los Angeles property vandalism conviction may include restitution to the victims and a requirement to clean up, fix or restore the damaged, defaced or destroyed property. There is also a “criminal street gang enhancement” for property vandalism crimes in Los Angeles, which, under Penal Code § 186.22 PC adds additional penalties to any felony conviction when the crime is committed for the benefit of, or on the orders of, a criminal street gang, with the intention of furthering the gang’s criminal activity.
Damage to Houses of Worship or Property Owned by Protected Groups
There are certain enhancements to California property vandalism crimes that apply to damage to property owned by or affiliated with members of a certain religion, nationality, race or other protected group, if there is evidence that the vandalism specifically and maliciously targeted the protected group. This type of enhancement does not automatically elevate simple vandalism crimes to aggravated felony offenses just because a protected property happened to be tagged with graffiti. However, defacing a house of worship, the home or business of an ethnic minority, or a statute of a civil rights leader with a threatening message or racial epithet could result in felony vandalism charges with a hate crime enhancement. Under California hate crimes laws, it is a violation of Penal Code § 422.6 PC for a person to damage or destroy another person’s property on the basis of that person’s gender, religion, nationality, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender. Furthermore, under Penal Code § 422.7 PC and Penal Code § 422.75 PC, if you commit a crime like assault or vandalism in Los Angeles, and you are motivated to do so because the victim belongs to one of these protected groups, the offense will be charged as a hate crime and you may receive an enhanced sentence.
Defenses to Property Vandalism Charges
Anyone who has ever had to have body work done on their car or a broken window replaced in their house knows that $400 is not a great deal of money in terms of property damage, and this means that even the smallest act of vandalism can result in felony charges under California law. Fortunately, when you are charged with a criminal offense in Los Angeles, you have the right to assert any argument in court that explains or justifies your alleged behavior, and with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on your side, you may be able to develop an argument persuasive enough to challenge the prosecution’s requisite burden of proof. Some defenses that may be helpful in fighting your Los Angeles vandalism charges include the following:
- You own the property in question;
- You were falsely accused;
- You are the victim of mistaken identity;
- You damaged the property by mistake;
- You lacked the required malicious intent; or
- You had permission from the owner of the property.
Hiring an Experienced Property Vandalism Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
For most of us, the term “vandalism” brings to mind an image of neighborhood kids riding around and smashing mailboxes with baseball bats, but there are a number of acts that can be charged as criminal vandalism in Los Angeles. In fact, in 2014, Justin Bieber was charged with – and found guilty of – misdemeanor vandalism and that was just for throwing eggs at a neighbor’s house. If you or a loved one has been arrested for defacing, damaging or destroying another person’s property, you could face serious criminal consequences resulting from a misdemeanor or felony property vandalism conviction. Don’t leave your future up to the whims of the court. Contact our knowledgeable California criminal defense attorneys today to discuss how best to proceed with defending your case.