Vandalism and graffiti laws in California aim to protect property owners. These are laws that prohibit the defacing, damaging or destruction of someone else's property. The seriousness of the vandalism or graffiti charge depends on the circumstances of the incident, the extent of damages and any possible gang affiliation. Vandalism charges can result in jail time or juvenile detention, probation, fines and other penalties. If you or a loved one is facing vandalism charges, an experienced Santa Clarita criminal defense attorney can help you better understand your legal rights and options.
Under California Penal Code 594 (a), a person is guilty of vandalism when he or she defaces, damages or destroys "any real or personal property not his or her own." If the amount of the damage is $400 or more, the vandalism is punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000. If the damages are between $400 and $10,000, the defendant faces up to a year in jail and up to $50,000 in fined. If the damages are under $400, the vandalism is punishable by up to one year in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines. These charges can become more serious if the defendant is a repeat offender.
Charges and Possible Defenses
Vandalism charges can get even more serious if other allegations are added on to it. For example, if the defendant is accused of inscribing swastikas on a Jewish person's property, then, hate crime charges can be added on. If the defendant is a known gang member, gang enhancements can be added on to the charges, thereby resulting in a lengthier jail time and more fines.
There are several possible defenses to vandalism charges that can be presented by a skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer. Often, we see that vandalism charges are filed against individuals due to mistaken identity. For example, if you were with the person who actually committed the act of vandalism, you may be charged regardless of whether you participated or not. Other ways in which misidentification can take place include grainy surveillance cameras and witnesses who may not have seen the perpetrators well enough to identify them.
Alternative Sentencing Options
If you are a juvenile facing vandalism charges or if you are a first-time offender, an experienced juvenile criminal defense lawyer like Daniel E. Kann can explore alternative sentencing options so you don't go to jail or juvenile detention. There are options available such as counseling and community service. Our goal is to keep you out of jail whether you are a first-time or repeat offender and get you the help and resources you need to get back on track. Please contact us today to discuss your case at absolutely no cost.