In California, a vandalism conviction can lead to a license suspension and other consequences including probation and jail. Vandalism can be either a felony or misdemeanor. Long Beach criminal law specialist Matthew Kaestner and has been handling vandalism and other criminal charges for over 30 years. The following is a summary of the law and defenses to vandalism charges by attorney Kaestner.
Vandalism in California is defined as defacing with graffiti or other inscribed material, damaging, or destroying real or personal property. [Penal Code section 594(a)(1)].
If the amount of defacement, damage or destruction is less than $400 the crime is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. Vandalism with a loss of greater than $400 is punishable as a felony with 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in jail. A court can also order up to 300 hours of community service, counseling, and a license suspension.
A driver’s license suspension for “no more than 2 years,” must be ordered by a judge after a vandalism conviction, felony or misdemeanor “except when the court finds that a personal or family hardship exists that requires the person to have a driver's license for his or her own, or a member of his or her family's, employment, school, or medically related purposes.” [Vehicle Code section 13202.6] All the reasons a judge can suspend a license can be found at the California DMV. [Read More.]
California also prohibits the possession of objects that are normally lawful to possess if the government can prove that the items were possessed “with the intent to commit vandalism or graffiti.” The charge can carry up to 6 months in county jail. Those objects include aerosol paint, felt tip markers, carbide drill bits or scribes, glass cutters, grinding stones, awls, chisels and “any other marking substance...”[Penal Code section 594.2]
Defenses to charges of vandalism include:
1.) Identity (Someone else did it); 2.) No actual damage was done; 3.) The damage wasn’t “maliciously” done or was an accident. 4.) For felony vandalism: The amount of loss was under $400.
Defending a possession of “marking objects” case [P.C. 594.2] revolves around challenging the government’s ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the object or objects were possessed with intent to do vandalism and not for a lawful purpose.
A person prosecuted with a vandalism charge is entitled to a presumption of innocence in court. A prosecutor must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. All vandalism charges are criminal in nature and an accused person is entitled to a jury trial.
A vandalism conviction, like any criminal conviction can have serious consequences both in the short term and long term. If you or a loved one has been arrested for a vandalism charge, call Long Beach criminal law specialist Matthew Kaestner. Mr. Kaestner can be contacted directly at (562) 437-0200.